In anticipation of a number of 2G networks launching in the US dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT), T-Mobile is launching a program to help smoothly migrate its last remaining machine-to-machine (M2M) customers to 4G -- and it's offering access to its LTE network at a lower cost than 2G to entice them to stick around.
The carrier announced an "LTE for IoT" technology upgrade program, managed by M2M enabler Numerex, this week at CTIA. The program will help those companies using its 2G network for low-cost, low-power, non-cellular connectivity to migrate to its LTE network before the sun sets on its 2G EDGE network. Numerex says it includes support for modules, devices, platform, network and professional services.
There are a number of M2M devices that will only ever need a 2G network. For those companies that don't want the expense of 4G nor need its speeds and bandwidth, they have the option of waiting for LTE-Machine to be standardized, which will take a few years, or looking for an alternative network. They have several choices on that front as well, as Sigfox is building out a network in the US, and Ingenu, formerly On-Ramp, announced its doing the same this week at CTIA. (See Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network and Huawei Advances LTE-M for IoT in China.)
In order to entice companies to stick around, T-Mobile US Inc. will be offering them LTE network access for less than they're paying for 2G, according to a Numerex spokesperson. The price of 4G LTE modules is markedly more expensive than 2G modules, however, but Numerex says financing will be available. (See Verizon Pushes 4G LTE for M2M .)
"T-Mobile is working with Numerex to help companies find the optimum migration path to meet a company's specific needs and are committed to offering highly attractive pricing options," a Numerex spokesperson says. "Pricing will be dependent on the module manufacturer, LTE bandwidth options selected and network access."
It is unclear how many 2G IoT customers T-Mobile has left at this point, but it likely isn't many. Numerex CEO Marc Zionts said in the release that "there are still thousands of IoT deployments across the country that rely on 2G network service."
T-Mobile has said in the past that it will completely refarm its 2G EDGE network for LTE by the middle of 2015, but save some spectrum for its M2M customers. Its partnership with Numerex is a last-ditch effort to get them to upgrade rather than be stranded without service as many were when it shut down MetroPCS's CMDA network. (See T-Mobile Sunsets Last of MetroPCS's CDMA and T-Mobile Repurposes 2G to Get an LTE Edge.)
[Update: A T-Mobile spokesman has let us know that T-Mobile's mid-2015 deadline for its 2G EDGE network was referring to adding LTE to 2G sites, not replacing. The carrier plans to continue to keep supporting 2G for now and isn't giving a new deadline for sunsetting 2G. He says T-Mobile has 4.5 million total IoT customers, but doesn't break out what network they are using.]
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading