Carl Weinschenk spoke with Alex Brisbourne, the president and COO of KORE Telematics.
The need for bandwidth to accommodate LTE networks and all the gadgets that they support will accelerate the “refarming” of spectrum and slowly shrink 2G networks. The challenge is that many machine-to-machine (M2M) devices rely on these networks. Alex Brisbourne told IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk that companies that rely on M2M face some important decisions.
Weinschenk: What is happening in North America in terms of spectrum?
Brisbourne: We looked at the 2G, 3G and 4G generational changes that are taking place. We are being driven in North America by a different set of imperatives and challenges than those taking place in other parts of the world. The demand for spectrum and shortages in the U.S. specifically is more profound than other markets worldwide. In reality the drive is to be able to deliver from wireless carriers enhanced broadband service offerings, which have higher payloads and less latency ... all of which carry significant RPU advantages.
Weinschenk: Mobile carriers are trying to meet this demand in a number of ways. Is one of them sunsetting their 2G networks.
Brisbourne: There is something of a spectrum refarming taking place. It is not just Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless. It is not to be ignored that it also is going on among tier 2 and rural cellular operators who have specific coverage areas. In the rest of the world, 2G is assured through the balance of decade.
Weinschenk: What is the status of these efforts now among the big four?
Brisbourne: The only carrier that has come out with a clear and unequivocal statement, and they did that very recently, is AT&T. There has been much speculation during the past 18 months and pressure, frankly, to get clear and unambiguous direction from carriers. AT&T expects to sunset their 2G network by end of 2016 … It is less than four years away. The situation with Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile is far less clear because there has been no direct and official statement.
Frankly, the Verizon network may be 2G through the balance of decade because their LTE deployment is in new spectrum. In the cases of T-Mobile and AT&T, they both have to determine what spectrum they wish to use for LTE from their current inventory. That’s a fairly significant proposition. In a CDMA network 2G is required to continue to provide voice and related services, unlike GSM which has a GPRS overlay network. So the migration to being able to support HSPA, 3G and beyond is a little easier on the GSM side.
Weinschenk: What about Sprint and T-Mobile?
Brisbourne: In the cases of Sprint and T-Mobile I think there are different sets of challenges. Sprint has a different situation because there are multiple networks. They recently said they will discontinue the IDEN network they have. They also have their WiMax network to deal with. T-Mobile and the others to a great extent require inter-carrier roaming with other tier 1 and tier 2 carriers.
If the other tier 1 and tier 2 carriers migrate their network to 3G or 4G more quickly, it doesn’t matter what the main carrier is doing. Let’s take a very real situation: If a tier 2 carrier like Iowa Wireless, to maximize their business, migrates to 3G more quickly [than the major carriers] it means even if the major carrier keeps its 2G network they would not necessarily have coverage in Iowa, since Iowa Wireless went to 3G.
Weinschenk: What options do carriers have to protect their machine-to-machine (M2M) infrastructures, which predominantly use 2G?
Brisbourne: The answer is binary. You can either plan ahead or behave like King Canute and sit on the beach and say the tide is not coming in and suddenly be waist deep in water. If the expectation is the app in use will be good for four years or less, then you are totally safe with a 2G network offering, whether it is Verizon or AT&T (or the others). By the time sunset takes place you will have stopped using the apps. Large piece of the market only wants to have devices in service for under four years. Almost anything that touches consumers won’t be in use in four year’s time.