In 2017, AT&T turned off its 2G network, causing around 70 per cent of San Francisco’s buses and trains to disappear from the NextMuni system map, which passengers use to track vehicle locations and check arrival times. Following this, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) faced weeks of pressure from the public to upgrade its legacy monitoring devices. Industrial businesses could soon face a similar issue with 3G networks.
With the expansion of 4G LTE and 5G networks, more and more operators are announcing the decommissioning of their 3G networks. For example, Vodafone has already announced its plans to phase out 3G networks across many European countries in 2021 and 2022, leaving 2G networks in operation until the end of 2025.
While 2G/GPRS may be enough for occasional monitoring or small data transfers, it won’t be sufficient for remote access and control or continuous monitoring. Furthermore, it doesn’t offer future scalability.
The UK’s (analogue) public switched telephone network (PSTN) is also being switched off in favour of a fully digital network. Many companies in the utilities sector have thousands of sites still connected via the PSTN or cellular 2G/3G. Some older devices may not support alternative connections, so these sites will go offline until they are physically replaced. Operators must address these connectivity changes soon, or they risk revenue loss and regulatory issues with loss of reporting capability.