Preparing your business for the 2G/GSM network shut down in Australia

Preparing your business for the 2G/GSM network shut down in Australia

The current state of 2G/GSM Networks As many of you are probably aware, Cellular network operators around the world are planning to shut down their 2G networks to re-farm spectrum for more efficient 4G/LTE services. In the USA, AT&T plans to shut their 2G Network by January 1st 2017. Singapore is one of the first countries in the world to have all 2G networks shut down at once with M1, Starhub & Singtel announcing a joint shut down on April 1st, 2017. Here in Australia, Telstra’s 2G will be shut down on December 1st 2016, with Optus to following suit with their 2G network closure on 1st April 2017 and finally Vodafone Australia closing the remaining 2G network on 30th of September 2017 (Click here for more) Research firm Berg Insight theorize that globally 3G & 4G/LTE technologies will dominate cellular M2M communications by 2018. Pointing to the declining use of 2G by M2M developers in favor of 3G and 4G/LTE technologies, citing the greater reliability, coverage and speeds as the major drawing factor. LTE in particular delivers peak speeds of up to 100 Mbps allowing for faster transfers and better handling of more data intensive applications like video cameras or digital displays. The majority of mobile networks that are shutting down 2G have plans to re-farm spectrum for additional 4G/LTE network capacity. The business driver behind this decision is that it consolidates and makes more efficient use of their networks resulting in lower operating costs, fewer networks to support, and frees up spectrum for faster more lucrative services. So why is 2G so popular with M2M/IoT? The closure of 2G networks has the largest impact in the M2M space with an estimated 70% of M2M devices worldwide still utilizing 2G technologies. The major factor behind the prevalence of 2G devices in the M2M/IoT space is a simple one, cost. Not as simple are the factors that make up the costs behind an M2M device: Hardware Cost – The fact that 2G modems are less expensive than 3G modems should come as no surprise, it’s not very often that an older technology commands higher prices than it’s successor. The problem in the hardware space has compounded by the ‘Qualcomm tax’, due to the high volume of patents related to 3G owned by Qualcomm the price for 3G modules and modems has remained relatively static, and only recently as companies have got more economical with other elements and 4G/LTE development is ramping up, has the cost started to come down closer to 2G pricing. This has meant that a lot of businesses that probably should have been developing with 3G technology 2 or 3 years ago have put it off to avoid raising prices. The problem now is that businesses have a much shorter development time frame due to the impending 2G shut down. Lifecycle – M2M data needs are typically light compared to consumer applications that require the faster speeds and bandwidth of 3G and 4G/LTE so the lifecycle of a field device can be anywhere from 3-10 years compared to an average phone or tablet, which is replaced nearly yearly by most consumers. Upgrade costs – The nature of most M2M devices is that they are deployed in either very remote areas and connected to mobile assets, in countries with large remote areas like Australia the cost of sending a person out to upgrade or change a device can be in the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. Customer Perception – With customers conditioned to think that prices should come down over time, businesses working on a very thin margin have found themselves in a precarious position as the cost of deploying 3G increases their costs, but their customer base is unwilling to pay for what they feel is an ‘unnecessary’ upgrade. This has meant several businesses have decided to keep 2G technologies in place longer than their initial roadmap might have dictated. So where do we go from here? There is no doubt about it, with development times in M2M/IoT ranging from 6-18 months for new solutions. M2M system vendors in Australia need to make a decision now on the next iteration of their solution. While some companies are choosing the ‘mystery box’ and gambling on Vodafone Australia maintaining it’s 2G network, the majority of companies we work with across M2M One are looking at 3G & 4G/LTE upgrade paths. What are your upgrade options? Build vs. Buy – The first question you really need to ask yourself is whether you need to build a new product from scratch or if a solution already exists that can save you development time and cost. M2M-modules-image The problem with upgrading a 2G solution from a module level is that most 2G modules have a completely different form factor, where most major modules suppliers now keep a common form factor for 3G & 4G/LTE – This often leads to a complete redesign of your base board, which adds time and money to the upgrade. A lot of businesses that were early adopters of M2M/IoT from the 2G or even Circuit Switch Data (CSD) days had to develop their own solution, as nothing was available. Now we live in a time where M2M hardware has a level of standardization in terms of inputs and functionality meaning it may be cheaper and easier for businesses to go from building a solution from a board level upwards to perhaps buying an off the shelf finished modem or even a complete product and white labeling (this is becoming increasingly popular in the competitive vehicle tracking and telematics space). 2G to 3G – The most immediate fix for the majority of businesses is to make the jump from 2G to 3G. The good news is that the cost of developing a 3G M2M device has reduced considerably making the process slightly less painful. With quad and penta-band 3G modules on the market now, you can build a device that can be shipped anywhere in the world without having to worry about your base module. The major consideration here is the rapid growth of 4G/LTE, with coverage set to match and surpass 3G in the coming year a lot of people are questioning the long-term future of 3G, while none of the carriers are making any statements regarding this. We have been advising customers that if they plan to have a device in the field for 10 years or more they should be using 4G/LTE to be safe. 2G to 4G/LTE – As coverage grows the idea of leapfrogging 3G altogether and going with a pure 4G/LTE solution or a solution that is 4G/LTE with 3G fallback is looking like the most sensible path for a majority of solution providers. While a lot of M2M devices don’t need the added speed that comes with 4G/LTE the greater coverage, capacity and reliability of service is a huge draw. Several module manufactures and networks are discussing M2M specific operations on LTE Cat-0, a lower bandwidth M2M specific subset of LTE which will reduce both module and data costs. This isn’t to say 4G/LTE doesn’t bring it’s own difficulties along with it. While LTE modules are expected to drop in price much quicker than their 3G counterparts, they are still reasonably expensive compared to 2G. Another headache is the number of LTE bands currently being used; there are currently 32 LTE bands in use with 44 including LTE-TDD. There are currently no easily accessible modules on the market that will cover all LTE bands, which means deploying a global single SKU M2M device is currently impossible on LTE. Several countries have common bands making regional applications possible, but for a true global option your choices are limited. Where do I get started? The best place to get started is to speak to your supplier about upgrade paths, every module and modem supplier in Australia will be able to give you a number of options for upgrading your existing product and you might be pleasantly surprised by the ease and cost of some of these. If you don’t have contact with a supplier, most mobile network operators will be able to supply you with a list of approved hardware and integrators that can assist. Some may even assist with discounts, subsidies or consolidation of services as they want to minimize the number of 2G connections come shut down time. Of course M2M One are always here to help, we have connections to most of Australia’s leading M2M/IoT hardware providers and our team of M2M network experts can assist with helping you create an upgrade path that works for your business.

Did you find this information useful? Do you have some questions on the Australian Machine-to-Machine and Internet of Things market we can answer for you? Let us know on Twitter @M2MOneAU, on LinkedIn at M2M One or visit our website at www.m2mone.com.au.

James Mack

General Manager – M2M One

The views and opinions expressed in this blog site are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of M2M One or M2M Group.

M2M One – August 2015 Newsletter

This month we continue with the second of our blog series of M2M tips. This installment will help businesses looking to enter the local M2M and IoT industry understand the market in Australia. Want better control of your M2M One SIMs? We bring your attention to alerts that can be set up for real-time information and diagnostics. M2M One will be sponsoring Yow! Connected, an event dedicated to IoT for developers. This IoT conference is held in September and we will be conducting demonstrations by M2M Connectivity, Digi and others. See more details about this event below, we hope to see you there.

This months newsletter features:

  1. Notification – M2M One Control Centre Alerts
  2. Notification – Optus 2G 900MHz Shutdown
  3. Blog – M2M Tips – Depoloying Cellular M2M or IoT Devices in Australia
  4. IoT Conference – Yow! Connected
  5. Reminder – Telstra 2G (GSM) 900MHz Shutdown

1. Notification – M2M One Control Centre Alerts

The M2M One Control Centre keeps you in control of your M2M services and offers real time usage information, SIM status reports, diagnostic tools and much more.

This month we wanted to highlight a feature set that you may not be aware of: Alerts

M2M One has the ability to set up the following alerts to keep you up to date on your usage and SIM status for the month – If you would like to set up any of the Alerts outlined below on your account please email support@m2mone.com.au :

  • SIM State Change (Activation, deactivation, etc)
  • SMS Usage in a month or 24 hour period
  • Data usage in a month or 24 hour period
  • Voice usage in a month or 24 hours period
  • IMEI change
  • Session Start
  • Session End
  • No connection in the past XX hours

If you have any questions regarding setting up alerts on the M2M Control Centre, or anything else please don’t hesitate to contact our support team on +61 3 9696 3011 or at support@m2mone.com.au

2. Notification – Optus 2G 900MHz Shutdown

In a recent announcement Optus have confirmed that they will be following Telstra in shutting down their 2G/GSM (900MHz) network on April 1st 2017.

While this does not affect M2M One customers as we exclusively utilize the Telstra M2M network it is important to understand that this reflects a continuing trend of 2G networks being shut down and re-farmed for additional 4G/LTE network capacity with AT&T in the US, Telstra & Optus in Australia and Singtel in Singapore.

We strongly advocate companies building or deploying 2G devices in the Australian market to look at options for 3G or 4G/LTE as soon as possible to make sure you have solutions tested and ready to deploy well before the networks get shut down.

If you have any questions on 2G Migration or around M2M network services on 3G or 4G/LTE please contact M2M One on +61 3 9696 3011 or support@m2mone.com.au and we will point you in the right direction.

3. Blog – M2M Tips – Deploying Cellular M2M or IoT Devices in Australia

Continuing the series of tips to developers looking to get into the M2M/IoT space, this second installment offers an overview of the local marketplace to businesses, developers and distributors who are looking to build or import a M2M/IoT solution for use in Australia.

Our blog looks at the unique demands in terms of geography and coverage of Australia and the changing face of M2M and IoT customers as globalisation opens up local and International markets.

We look at local mobile operators in terms of the nation’s coverage and the 2G, 3G & LTE operating frequencies used by each. Tips on roaming SIMS, hardware approvals and IP addressing help customers and developers unfamiliar with the Australian market to understand the local M2M and IoT space.

Australia is well known for expensive data and higher operational costs compared to other countries, this is an incentive for current and prospective businesses looking to enter the market to manage data efficiently and minimize costs.

Read the full blog here

4. IoT Conference – Yow! Connected

M2M One is a sponsor of YOW! Connected, a two day Conference connecting the world of Mobile development and the Internet of Things (IoT). Topics include native development for iOS and Android, the developing market for the IoT, UX & design, back end development and the review of several business case studies. YOW! Connected provides an opportunity for Australian developers to learn from local thought leaders and specially invited international experts through the sharing of experiences developing mobile solutions and devices for the connected world.

Date:       17 September  2015     8:00am to
18 September 2015      5:00pm
Place:          Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth St,  Melbourne      

Visit us at Yow! Connected and view M2M and IoT demonstrations on Libelium’s Open Garden, ublox’s mBed Concept Board & Digi International’s XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit & ConnectCore6 Dev Kit.

For more information and to register to attend, please click here.

5. Reminder – Telstra 2G 900MHz Shutdown

We would like to continue to remind our customers that Telstra will discontinue their 2G/GSM network on the 1st of December 2016. This has implications for M2M One customers using 2G 900MHz GSM/GPRS modems.

You can view our official notification here

M2M One customers with 2G devices have the opportunity to utilize 3G and soon 4G LTE. All M2M One SIM cards are compatible with the Telstra 2G, 3G and soon 4G network so you will not need to physically change any SIM cards from M2M One.

M2MOne customers affected by the shut down of Telstra’s 2G/GSM network who are looking for solutions/alternatives for their 2G/GSM devices are advised to contact a 3G/4G LTE device vendor.
Please read M2M One’s notification of the shutdown if you haven’t already.

If you do not know if your devices will be affected by this please contact M2M One and we can help you.

M2M Tips – Deploying Cellular M2M or IoT Devices in Australia

M2M Tips – Deploying Cellular M2M or IoT Devices in Australia

Over the past 15 years the team at M2M Connectivity & M2M One have coached, consulted, celebrated and at times commiserated with thousands of hopeful developers trying to make their mark on the Machine to Machine/Internet of Things landscape.

This series of blog posts is designed to pass on some M2M 101 style tips to developers looking to get into the space.

This week we give some tips to businesses, developers and distributors who are looking to build or import an M2M/IoT solution for use in our backyard, the Australian marketplace.

Traditionally we have dealt with local Australian or New Zealand based developers building products specifically designed to meet some of the unique challenges in terms of coverage, environment and demand in Australia – With the increasing global nature of M2M/IoT we’ve seen our customer base grow to include two interesting new additions:

  • International companies looking to bring their unique solution to the Australian Market.
  • Local Entrepreneurs with a great product idea sourcing or developing hardware using international manufacturers.

This is great because it brings a whole new range of innovation and competition to the local market, but it also brings unique challenges as a majority of these customers are unfamiliar with the intricacies of deploying solutions in Australia.

Some of the more isolated areas in Australia are found in the north and the centre of the Country - Image from AussieStock

Some of the more isolated areas in Australia are found in the north and the centre of the Country – Image from AussieStock

Mobile Coverage

Australia is unique in terms of geography in that a large portion of the country is relatively unpopulated or uninhabitable while there is some mobile infrastructure that covers these areas around 70% of the countries landmass does not have mobile coverage and can only be covered by Satellite. The closest country in terms of similar mobile coverage disparity is possibly Canada, but the physical geography is quite different.

To give you an idea of the population density and mobile coverage, the country’s largest mobile network operator Telstra covers roughly 28-30% of Australia and 99.5% of the population; the second largest operator Optus covers roughly 13-15% of Australia and 98.5% of the population. Telstra covers roughly an extra 1 million Square Kilometers of the Country to cover an additional 1% of the population.

Most major motorways, truck routes and shipping areas have mobile coverage so you are rarely without coverage, unless you go completely into the ‘bush’.

An example of Telstra's coverage of Australia

An example of Telstra’s coverage of Australia

Mobile Network Operators

Australia has 3 major mobile network operators, with all other providers operating as wholesales or MVNOs for existing infrastructure. ADSL provider TPG has recently purchased some LTE spectrum as has the National Broadband Network (NBN) but neither have announced any long-term plans.

The 3 operators in Australia are:

  • Telstra – The countries largest mobile network covering over 2.3 million square kilometers (roughly 28-30% of the country) and 99.5% of the population.
  • Optus – The countries second largest mobile network covering over 1.3 million square kilometers (Roughly 13-15% of the country) and 98.5% of the population.
  • Vodafone – Vodafone don’t typically publish their coverage statistics, but have recently entered into a 3G tower sharing agreement with Optus so you can estimate that their coverage is similar to Optus.

Operating Frequencies

Australian carriers operate 2G, 3G & LTE networks – CDMA was decommissioned in 2008.

Telstra Optus & Vodafone are following US Carrier AT&T’s model of closing down 2G to re-farm spectrum for LTE/4G.

Telstra:

  • 2G – 900Mhz (This frequency is being re-farmed for LTE and will no longer be available to 2G devices from December 1st 2016)
  • 3G – 850Mhz/2100Mhz (For the best coverage 850Mhz is a must have)
  • 4G/LTE – Telstra currently operates 5 frequencies for LTE these are listed below. The critical frequencies for all M2M/IoT applications are B3 & B28
    • B1 – 2100Mhz
    • B3 – 1800Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)
    • B7 – 2600Mhz
    • B8 – 900Mhz
    • B28 – 700Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)

Optus:

  • 2G – 900Mhz (This frequency is being re-farmed for LTE and will no longer be available to 2G devices from April 1st 2017)
  • 3G – 900Mhz/2100Mhz
  • 4G/LTE – Optus currently operates 6 frequencies for LTE these are listed below. The critical frequencies for all M2M/IoT applications are B3 & B28
    • B1 – 2100Mhz
    • B3 – 1800Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)
    • B7 – 2600Mhz
    • B8 – 900Mhz
    • B28 – 700Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)
    • B40 – 2300Mhz

Vodafone:

  • 2G – 900Mhz (This frequency is being re-farmed for LTE and will no longer be available to 2G devices from September 30th 2017)
  • 3G – 900Mhz/2100Mhz
  • 4G/LTE – Vodafone currently operates 3 frequencies for LTE these are listed below. The critical frequencies for all M2M/IoT applications are B3 & B5
    • B3 – 1800Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)
    • B5 – 850Mhz (Must have for M2M/IoT)
    • B8 – 900Mhz

Roaming SIMs in Australia

If you are buying SIMs from an international carrier or MVNO it is important to note that Telstra does not allow permanent roaming on their network and can exercise the right to remove services from their network that have been roaming for over 6 months in any 12 month period – Read more here

For permanent M2M/IoT applications that require the Telstra network your best option is to speak to M2M One or Telstra directly.

Hardware Approvals

All M2M/IoT hardware using an Australian Mobile Network should be RCM (Formerly A-Tick) approved – This is similar to European (CE) approval and US (FCC) approval. In some cases devices with CE or FCC approval can have approval time and costs reduced.

RCM approval stamp

RCM approval stamp

If a device is being worn on the body in also needs to undergo SAR testing for radiation levels.

Telstra and Optus also have their own approval process, this is not necessary to use their networks but devices using an approved module/modem will often be prioritized with support issues.

For more information about approval we recommend speaking to EMC Technologies or Comtest Laboratories

IP Addressing

Public IP Address space is limited in Australia and most mobile carriers will not provide any sort of publically addressable IP for M2M/IoT devices. Your best bet is to utilize public Internet access or have a private IP range built on an APN for you.

For more information about IP Addressing – Read our last blog post

Operating Costs

We find that a majority of customers that come from international markets, particularly Europe or Asia find the price of Data, SMS & Voice in Australia quite expensive compared to their home market.

This has long been the case in Australia and local developers have learned to adapt and minimize their costs through efficient use of data. It is therefore important for anyone bringing a solution into Australia that they consider how to best utilize their data allowance.

For example we see a lot of vehicle tracking and telematics applications from China and SE Asia. These are typically more ‘data hungry’ as data is relatively cheap in these markets; most devices typically consume 30MB or data or more a month for normal operations. An equivalent Australian made device would probably consume between 3-5MB of data per month for similar functionality due to price constraints in the market.

There you have it, a quick practical overview on deploying M2M or IoT hardware in Australia. In our next article we will give a more general overview of the Australian M2M market, pointing out the areas that are saturated and those that are growing, from our experience.

 

Did you find this tip useful? Do you have some questions on the Australian Machine-to-Machine and Internet of Things market we can answer for you? Let us know on Twitter @M2MOneAU, on LinkedIn at M2M One or visit our website at www.m2mone.com.au.

James Mack

General Manager – M2M One

The views and opinions expressed in this blog site are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of M2M One or M2M Group.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from M2M One.

You have Successfully Subscribed!