Double take on 2G: Readers see 'sunset' differently

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07/31/2012

If nothing else, last week's blog on the 2G sunset served to toss another log on the fire in the debate over how long the technology will last in the face of frequency harvesting by carriers. Among the responses I received was an argument that 2G will remain viable in part due to CDMA-based equipment, which could stick around a lot longer than its GPRS and GMS cousins.

"I was reading your 2G sunset blog this morning and wanted to point out that many cellular alarm solution providers support T-Mobile USA or other 2G carriers along with AT&T Wireless coverage," said the reader, who said I could pass along his remarks on condition of anonymity. "AT&T is the carrier making the most noise about phasing out 2G GPRS, but T-Mobile has no current plans to sunset. Also, CDMA-based carriers like Verizon and Sprint still have a long planned life for 2G CDMA."

The reader agreed that the issue is critical for the industry, saying the majority of cellular alarm systems currently deployed utilize 2G GPRS on AT&T. But he took issue with the terminology being used and urged others to do the same.

"While AT&T-based cellular alarm providers certainly have the largest marketing presence, please be careful referring to the AT&T GPRS sunset as a '2G sunset,' because many 2G alarm solutions will stay viable for a long time," he said.

Another reader, Steve Wallace, called attention to the fact that just because no carrier has announced a date for the sunset, it doesn't mean it's not going to happen. He said the process has already begun and commented that companies not paying heed "may be looking at this wrong."

"For quite a while some carriers, such as AT&T, have stopped certifying new 2G devices," Wallace said. "Carriers have begun to re-purpose [refarm] the 2G spectrum into LTE offerings. 2G equipment is retiring and is being replaced for 4G. 3G expansion has virtually ceased."

The reality for alarm companies is that signal strength will decline for a lot of equipment in the field as these changes take hold.

"Alarm systems with 2G radios could become more problematic long before 'sunset' is announced," he said.

Like I mentioned last week, a sunset date by AT&T would likely knock a lot of people off the fence if they've been considering a move to 3G/4G. All is quiet at the moment, but it would be shortsighted to think it’s going to stay that way. Alarm companies would be wise to plan accordingly and keep a sharp eye on the horizon.

Comments

AT&T has made it official: The last day of 2G coverage is December 31, 2016.

Visit www.2Gsunset.com to read the Wall Street Journal and USA Today coverage.

Regarding the anonymous commentor, saying T-Mobile doesn't have plans to sunset their network is a bit misleading, they have told manufacturers not to expect the network beyond 2020. A date developed before they get the iPhone and it's crushing traffic demands next year.

Just like manufacturers knew the date of AT&T's sunset last year but couldn't say it until after AT&T announced it, T-Mobile is essentially doing the same.

2GSunset.com keeps a running list of all carrier's sunset plans, not just AT&T's.  Read the articles and the carrier's sunset plans in their own words there.