Telecommunication’s Generational Paradigm Shift – sundown for legacy, dawn of 5G

As the Communications Service Providers (CSPs) transition to the latest communications standards, 4G and 5G, the year 2022 will witness the shutdown of 3G networks or 3G Sunset, as it is generally referred to, in several parts of the world.

Take the case of the Americas, where starting 2022, most CSPs are likely to shut down 2G and 3G entirely by 2025. Verizon plans to shut down 3G by the end of the current year, while Sprint will do so by March 2022 and T-Mobile by July 1 this year.

On the other hand, the UK’s EE has announced plans to phase out 3G by 2023. In addition, several mobile network operators in Africa have also announced plans to sunset 2G and 3G services. Interestingly, European and Oceania MNOs are focusing on shutting down 3G networks while the regions plan to continue to operate 2G networks.

Why are MNOs shutting down 3G networks? 

There are several reasons for the MNOs to close down 3G networks. The latest 4G and 5G communications standards offer better speeds and enable MNOs to provide new and exciting use cases. 5G offers better throughput and extremely low latency, thus promoting innovative use cases like remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, and Industry 4.0, among others. This means that the usage of 4G and 5G is growing in all geographies at the cost of 3G, making 3G or third-generation networks redundant. In the circumstances, it is unviable for the telcos to continue running 3G networks.

Further, spectrum is an expensive and limited natural resource, so the MNOs are keen to refarm the available spectrum and use it for 5G. This way, the MNOs needn’t spend more on procuring spectrum for 5G, while at the same time, they would be able to provide the latest use cases to subscribers and enterprises. This is especially relevant because 5G requires a spectrum in several frequency bands.

Typically, MNOs follow the strategy of adding a new technology layer for every new standard. Shutting down 2G and 3G will also help reduce network complexity and enhance efficiency by making it easier to manage the networks.

What does 3G Sunset mean for the users? 

The shutdown of 3G and 2G networks is not without challenges. Apart from cellphones, the 3G network is being used in several other devices, including security cameras, medical devices, cars, and home alarms, among others.

“While mobile operators have articulated clear timelines and provided multiple delays and postponements, the shutdown of 3G networks will inevitably be challenging for a limited number of 3G mobile and IoT users who have lagged in their upgrades to 4G and 5G,” says Jason Leigh, research manager, 5G and Mobile Services at IDC. “But the finality of 3G in 2022 is a natural part of the cellular networking evolution and a necessary development to allow next-generation 5G connectivity to flourish.”

Just to put this in perspective, There were more than 80 million active 3G devices just in North America in 2019, according to RCR Wireless News. According to ABI Research, 3G Sunset could impact more than 350,000 Class 8 vehicles and many connected cold-chain trailers.

Several machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices continue to utilize 3G services, and the shutdown of the 3G network will have a crippling effect on them. Several of these devices were never upgraded to 4G because a faster network was not required for the use cases. However, with 3G Sunset on the anvil, several security cameras, medical devices, and car and home alarms will stop functioning.

Legacy devices that continue to use 2G or 3G networks need to upgrade before network shutdown to ensure that they continue to function. This is also important to avoid a stressful and costly rollback changeover.

In the circumstances, meticulous planning is required to ensure least or no disruption to the users once 3G networks are shut down. The IoT industry is now looking at next-generation LTE technologies, like CAT-1, CAT-0, and CAT-M1 as 2G, 3G and eventually 4G replacements.

How to plan for the 3G curtains down? 

The MNOs need to conduct a thorough audit of all the network elements to ensure that all the 3G devices are on the Public Land Mobile Network, so they will continue to function even when the 3G network is shut. This is crucial to ensure that any existing hardware using these technologies will continue to be operational once the services are switched off.

While transitioning, the MNOs can ensure that the networks are not just ready for the current

requirements but are also scalable to meet future needs. Flexible, agile and programmable network architectures, like Open RAN, can be deployed to ensure that the networks are future-ready. In addition, since Open RAN is interoperable and uses the principles of virtualization, it offers better network economics while making it easier to deploy future technologies.

How can Subex help?

Subex offers a range of solutions to ensure an easy and seamless transition for 3G users/devices without facing any service disruption. Subex’s Network Asset Management solution uses Machine Learning-based analytics to enable MNOs to meet regulatory and auditory requirements while using automation for better Return on Investment (ROI). It provides an end-to-end view of the network assets, thus allowing service providers to efficiently manage events and workflows.

On the other hand, Subex’s Capacity Management solution allows service providers to better plan for change by leveraging its ML-based algorithms for accurate capacity planning. 

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how Subex can help you Sunset 3G without causing any service disruption!

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