Some US connectivity providers are questioning whether T-Mobile US will be supporting a 2G service for its M2M customers by the end of the decade.
One of these is Alex Brisbourne, the president of M2M specialist Kore Telematics, who blames the spread of “disinformation” for a belief that certain 2G networks will still be around in years to come.
The debate over whether 2G or 3G (or even 4G) is most appropriate for M2M services has raged ever since AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) and Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA), the two biggest operators in the US, gave notice of plans to shut down their 2G networks by 2020.
With the economics of 3G still largely unfavorable for many M2M applications, one view is that M2M customers will be drawn to operators that appear committed to their 2G systems over the long term.
That includes Sprint (Overland Park, KS, USA) and T-Mobile (Bellevue, WA, USA), the country’s third- and fourth-biggest players, but Brisbourne reckons the latter will certainly be following AT&T and Verizon Wireless into 2G darkness.
“T-Mobile roams largely on other US carriers, notably the US rural carriers and AT&T,” he says. “When AT&T has no 2G network, a whole area of the US will go dark for the T-Mobile network except where it owns its own property.”
“Second, the rural cellular carriers make money out of servicing transient traffic of the large carriers,” he adds. “If that traffic is high-value 3G, then they are also changing their networks and refarming their spectrum to support 3G and 4G devices.”
Kore Telematics (Atlanta, GA, USA), a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) focused on the M2M sector, happens to provide services using T-Mobile’s network, but Brisbourne also takes aim at the suitability of T-Mobile’s 3G spectrum for M2M services.
“How many companies are building a 3G device for unique AWS [Advanced Wireless Services] spectrum requirements that can’t be used anywhere else in the world?” he asks. “T-Mobile is refarming 1900MHz for 3G, but it’s a horrible frequency for M2M because the in-building characteristics are not good.”
That will be music to the ears of AT&T, as well as Verizon Wireless and Sprint, whose CDMA-based technologies Brisbourne champions over GSM for use with M2M applications.
“We’ve brought in new commercial models with Verizon that drive a coach and horses through the old economics of CDMA,” he says. “The CDMA network is not only reliable but cost-efficient, with carriage costs per megabyte that are probably 60% of the cost of GSM.”
Brisbourne – who is also a board member of the International M2M Council recently set up to prove the business case for M2M services – believes that not a single one of his “top accounts” is not already building a 3G product or planning to do so.
Even so, he reckons a number of “small-scale providers” not planning a migration to 3G will probably just “go dark” at some point.
RACO Wireless (Cincinnati, OH, USA), a rival of Kore Telematics, has been far more critical of the decision by major operators to strand their 2G businesses.
“For them everything is about LTE but the financials and the business model don’t work right now [for M2M],” said John Horn, the president of RACO Wireless, in a recent conversation with M2M Zone.
RACO has purposefully sought out deals with T-Mobile and Sprint so that it can continue to promote the benefits of 2G for M2M services.