What 'G' Do Connected Devices Need?
That group's made up of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices that only need short bursts of data, often for stationary uses. So, not the connected cars or fleet management, necessarily, but the smart meters, vending machines, e-readers and other less intensive data devices.
The relevancy of the 2G network came up at Connected World Magazine's conference outside of Chicago on Tuesday. In light of the operators sunsetting all or parts of their 2G networks, the question arose: Is using LTE overkill or a future-proof decision? (See Photos: Connected World's M2M Jam.)
Verizon Wireless VP of Vertical Industry Solutions Janet Schijns said that the carrier, the furthest along in its LTE deployment, is continuing to invest in 2G, but is encouraging its customers to look carefully at their solutions. It's a significant cost to replace a device's module, so she suggests to customers that if their solution will ever need more data, they should start with LTE now. She said that eight out of 10 of Verizon's customers think about switching to 3G/4G when they consider the economics, and half eventually land on LTE.
Glenn Lurie, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s head of emerging devices, agreed, noting that if customers underestimate data needs then down the road they'll either have to change the module out or potentially be shut down.
"LTE modules are more expensive because they carry a bigger load," Lurie said. "More and more people coming to us were already planning to go to 3G, but the question is do they go to LTE?"
It's this hard sell on LTE that's helping T-Mobile US Inc. sign up more customers for its 2G network, which Jeremy Korst, the carrier's VP of wholesale, maintains will always be sufficient for a lot of use cases. For example, T-Mobile's M2M partner, RacoWireless , announced Tuesday that it has signed up point-of-sale giant Apriva Wireless, primarily because its current operator partner, AT&T, is sunsetting 2G in some of its major markets. (See T-Mobile's Back in the M2M Business.)
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s VP of emerging solutions, Wayne Ward, leaned more toward T-Mobile's point of view, but chose to instead talk up the benefit of multimode devices, which makes sense for the multi-network operator as it's deep in its Network Vision rollout.
"The fact of the matter is right when we get our head around 4G, you guys will start talking about 5G," Ward jibed at his competitors on stage. He said the best way to approach M2M is to find out the customer's app and desired end user experience, and then reverse engineer it.
"You don’t lead with the technology," he said, but you do make an agreement to support the network it lands on for 10 years or more.
Of course, the network isn't always a company's biggest decision. Business model is most important to most, something the panelists agreed on. Or, as AT&T's always-diplomatic Lurie put it: "We get enamored with our crap, but it's about, 'what do people want to buy?'"
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile