Cellular technology, evolving from 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and now 5G, is one of the main pillars of industrial IoT networks. It enables connectivity with thousands of remote devices deployed in the field, across industries and use cases.
Like any technology, cellular technology evolves over time as new releases of 3GPP specifications are developed, implemented by vendors, and adopted by services providers or private networks operators. Today, the main market trend is 4G/LTE services, while new 5G services are now appearing around the world.
What about legacy 2G and 3G services still in use on many industrial deployments around the world?
The number of cellular devices reached 8.6 billion in 2021 and associated applications are growing exponentially. Repurposing spectrum previously utilized on 2G and 3G networks for use with faster and more efficient 4G/LTE and 5G services is part of all mobile network operators planning. The dates for the sunset of 2G and 3G technologies vary by world region and mobile operator. End users must be aware of these sunset dates and migrate to 4G/LTE connectivity prior to these dates to prevent loss of connectivity.
2G and 3G sunset overview
While the below list of sunset schedules for worldwide 2G and 3G mobile operators is not exhaustive, it supports you to start planning for the impact on your industrial IoT network.
Industrial IoT routers – modularity a KEY requirement
Industrial IoT networks leveraging cellular technologies are generally deployed for 5-10 years. The mobile phones industry, with its nearly 15 billion devices [Statista], has a shorter life span of 18-30 months [Statista U.S.]. This represents a challenge for modem vendors. They must renew their chipset to align with new 3GPP releases, while maintaining older generations of modem chipsets and firmware. That is why the deployment of industrial IoT routers such as the latest Cisco IR series with modular cellular interface enables future proofing and smooth evolution of cellular technology without replacing all equipment.
Cisco industrial IoT routers – preparing for 3G sunset
All Cisco industrial IoT routers support 4G/LTE, even those purchased in the last 10 years. It means your industrial IoT network is mostly ready for the 3G sunset. The following best practices will ensure a smooth transition from 3G to 4G.