Shifting from 2G to 3G/ 4G LTE: Designing new scalable systems

To date 2G has suited many M2M applications requiring the transmission of small amounts of data.   The sunsetting of 2G networks and the expansion of 3G and 4G/LTE technology has spurred companies to look at upgrading widely deployed 2G applications and devices. The GSMA reports that most LTE operators in the United States and Australia will have entirely migrated their 2G-only connection bases to 3G or 4G by 2020. Telstra has already announced its 2G closure by end 2016.

This all makes it a good time now for companies with 2G device fleets to start planning their migration to 3G and/or 4G LTE. These higher bandwidth networks also means makes sense for companies to be evaluating the use of higher bandwidth for future service offerings in the evolving M2M/IoT space.

When designing new systems with scalability in mind, it is important to consider the criteria for hardware, software and deployment in selecting the right wireless technology. A good long term wireless design will:

  • feature pin-to-pin compatibility across 2G, 3G and 4G modules so that future upgrades require only the simple replacement of the wireless module and retest,
  • take advantage of the backward compatibility so that 3G or 4G LTE modules with fall back to 2G and 3G respectively and work on available networks without having to switch in future by upgrading modules in the field,
  • have advanced software development framework allowing for software reuse when migrating to a new technology; in ideal cases an application design for a 2G solution can be ported to a new 3G, multi-mode or 4G LTE module in future upgrades,
  • offer secure firmware upgrades over-the-air (OTA) to assure that devices always have the latest features and capabilities, without having to physically touch deployed devices
  • manage remotely the ongoing operation of an application served by a wide deployment of devices, with support of a M2M management platform to cost effectively simplify maintenance and troubleshooting.

These are just some of the significant attributes of a good long term wireless design.  For a comprehensive reference on migrating from 2G to 3G and/ or 4G LTE for companies developing IoT and M2M applications, read the Sierra Wireless white paper: Planning a Scalable Long-Term Wireless Strategy here.

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