April 30, 2024

Navigating 2G & 3G Sunsetting: What Every IoT Business Should Consider 

As we approach the closing of 2G and 3G networks – with some already shut down – businesses must migrate to the latest 4G/5G technology to safeguard their solutions and stay relevant in the market. It’s important that CEOs and other interested parties ask the right questions, both to their teams and their connectivity provider, to ensure the right transformation plan is in place. 

But first– why are Mobile Network Operators retiring their 2G/3G services?

The technology shift away from 2G and 3G is primarily due to evolution and the demand for more advanced technologies that offer increased speeds, capacity, lower latency, and better coverage and reliability. 

Sunsetting older networks allows for the frequency spectrum and resources to be redirected, expanding the capabilities of newer technologies like 4G and 5G. 

This transition is essential for optimizing network performance and paving the way for innovation and higher telecommunications standards. 

When will 2G and 3G networks officially be shutdown? 

This is one of the most important questions to ask your team as well as your connectivity provider – and the answer can differ depending on where your customers and assets are located. 

  • In Sweden, network operators are clear that both 2G and 3G will be retired in 2025, with all four Swedish operators moving at similar pace 
  • In the UK, operators will retire 3G mobile networks by 2025, but will retain 2G until as late as 2033. Why? 2G technology has greater dependency due to the millions of IoT devices, such as smart meters, that will continue to rely on those services  
  • For other European/EU countries, most cellular network providers plan to retire 3G slightly ahead of 2G 
  • Globally, some operators have already completed or are well on their way to completing the 2G and 3G shutdown process, including the US and Australia. According to GSMA, by mid-October 2023, 97 networks had been shut down (46 were 2G and 51 were 3G networks). Based on announced plans, at least 143 networks will be discontinued between 2024 and 2030 (59 2G networks and 84 3G networks).
*See table at the end of the page for a full list of sunsetting dates. 

How can CEOs and business owners prepare for the 2G/3G shutdown? 

Here are the main questions to ask your team and IoT connectivity partner(s). 

 1.     How will my business be impacted?

Understanding your customer base is critical, as is understanding which devices, technologies, and protocols your customer has built up a reliance on. Ask your team to gather data on: 

  • What percentage of your customers are still using 2G and/or 3G devices? 
  • In which countries are they located? 
  • What is the sunset timeline for each country/affected customer? (Talk to your IoT connectivity provider to understand this) 

These insights will help determine where the risk is greatest and which customers are a priority in terms of engagement.  

Make sure your business is ready

Join our webinar on preparing for the 2G/3G sunset

2.    What do we need to consider when preparing for the transition? 

The discontinuation of 2G and 3G services could have numerous effects on your business. The impact on your companies’ budget may be one of the most significant, as upgrading technology will inevitably add cost. 

  • The largest financial consideration is the purchase of new hardware and in some cases providing subsidies back to your customers to encourage them to switch. Speak to your hardware manufacturer to secure favourable terms and select replacement technology that is going to suit your needs not just today but for the entire lifespan of the device 
  • If your devices do not lend themselves to “plug and play”, you may also need to secure engineering resources to help you deploy replacement devices out in the field. Consider if you can upskill your workforce to deliver remote training to customers to enable self-installation 
  • If you have a large deployment of devices, consider assigning a project manager to oversee the replacement program. 

3.    What new opportunities does 2G/3G sunsetting bring to my business? 

2G and 3G decommissioning presents opportunities to revamp products  

  • Upgrading to 4G and/or 5G networks not only enhances the reliability and speed of data transmission but also allows for the integration of more sophisticated IoT devices and applications. Businesses can capitalize on this by exploring the potential for enhanced functionality, improved analytics, and real-time data processing 
  • Depending on bandwidth requirements, businesses may also consider investing in IoT-specific Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies such as VoLTE, NB-IoT or LTE-M, which are often the obvious choice for 2G/3G replacement. These are suitable for devices with low usage requirements that have a long lifecycle of 10+ years. NB-IoT and LTE-M can greatly enhance battery life and provide more reliable performance in remote or underground areas. 

Speak to your IoT connectivity partner to guide you on which technology would be most suitable and cost effective for your use case and geographical footprint. 

Ben Kirkham Key Account Manager, Tele2 IoT

4.    How should I communicate this technology shift to my customers?

We all know that being transparent with your customers is essential to maintaining trust and loyalty whilst minimizing churn. Communicating these changes early and clearly to your customers will allow them time to prepare for any changes which may impact them.  

  • Be clear about consequences that could arise if your customers do not begin migration (ex. downtime or complete loss of service) 
  • Encourage switching early by highlighting the benefits of 4G/5G, such as improved reliability, speed, security, and reduced latency. Depending on your service offering, you may want to expand on these benefits and describe additional features or offerings that could be introduced as a result of the switch 
  • Ask your team to create a communication strategy that includes notifications about upcoming changes, key dates, calls to action, support routes, and FAQs. 

Keep in mind that not all your customers may follow IoT news. Therefore, pro-active and regular communication is key to ensuring the transition before the sunset date, helping to prevent any service loss, customer complaints, or reputational hits. 

What can Tele2 IoT do to help? 

No matter what the size of your deployment, Tele2 IoT is playing its part by providing our customers with valuable data insights to show which devices will be affected and need to be swapped out, along with which countries pose the most risk and what percentage of the customer’s estate may require hardware replacement. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me for assistance.

Ben Kirkham
Key Account Manager
Tele2 IoT

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