12.11.2020

M2M: How to anticipate the disappearance of 2G?

Arnold DAIGNERE
By Arnold DAIGNERE
Arnold Daignère holds a doctorate in physical sciences and is an engineer for Bosch Mondeville specialising in industrialisation and electronic manufacturing. His expertise mainly covers the fields of engineering, failure mode and effects analysis and criticality (FMECA), quality management, product development, research and development (R&D) and semiconductors.

The arrival of 5G in France is scheduled for 2020 and brings a number of technological changes. Does this new telecommunications network compromises the future of historic networks such as 2G?

According to Orange, “We can envisage an extinction of 2G by 2025” for large public. This is already the case in Asia (Japan, Macao, Singapore, South Korea) as well as in the United States. In these countries, the first iPhone, released 10 years ago, can no longer be used. As for Europe, Switzerland announced the shutdown in 2020 and Norway in 2021.

Considering the disappearance of 2G in France, many questions are legitimate for IoT manufacturers in the French market. Should we still invest in 2G? Millions of services are based on this technology. What are the alternatives for M2M?

Some current technologies may already be viable alternatives for an industrial product aimed at being exploited over the next ten years.

Disappearance of 2G

Why decide to let go of 2G? The reasons are various and some are obvious: not to stack networks and free up frequency bands to use them with new technologies, such as 5G.

however, others are less so, like the impact on the energy balance and therefore the objectives of carbon neutrality. Indeed, the operation of networks requires a lot of energy and, at iso-use, 2G consumes much more than 5G.

There are only few official public communications from operators on this schedule. To make it more difficult, 2G and 3G services will be stopped in an inhomogeneous way. Sometimes 3G is stopped before 2G, with delays between operators. Managing roaming and border areas will once again be a challenge. Regarding France, Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, mentioned during his interview with Les Echos (February 2020) that “by 2025, in Europe, we can predict an extinction of 2G, at least for the large public ”.

Converting your products to 4G or 5G seems logical, but potentially economically counterproductive. Indeed, the licenses included in the corresponding modules have an impact that is all the greater as the service used is recent. As always, a compromise has to be found. As part of M2M, 2G (or rather 2.5G or GPRS) provides voice and data services. The replacement of these two functions by an energy efficient protocol, optimized for nomadic solutions and relatively economical (subscription) is in preparation, and it bears the name of LTE: CAT-M.

Benefits, use cases and roadmap

Launched in 2016 by the organization 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is in charge of standardizing telecommunications networks on an international scale, this technology is part of the LPWA (Low-Power Wide-Area) network, like NB-IoT. An LPWA network is a solution for wireless communication with low power, allowing data to be transmitted over several kilometers. The technical advantages provided facilitate its integration for wide uses and areas of IoT, especially for mobile products.

LTE-M

Supported in France by Orange, its functionalities evolve during revisions of 3GPP. For example, the VoIP functionality will be available at the beginning of 2021 in France, then the * -M1 and * -M2 versions will gradually spread to the market. The 14 release of 3GPP notably saw its speed increase (DL: 4Mbps, UL: 7Mbps; full duplex peak rates) as well as other improved features, such as positioning (E-CID & OTDOA full support).

This technology is part of the 5G roadmap and will coexist with this major evolution in the IoT field (framework of release 15 & 16 for phases 1 & 2 of 5G).

In the short term, some changes are available on the French network :

  • Coverage : More than 98% of the French population is already covered, which is higher than usual 4G. Map up to date: https://www.orange-business.com/fr/reseau-LTE-M
  • Extended coverage : repetition (up to 32 times) and concentration on a frequency band of only 1MHz allow an additional gain of 8dBm. The network dynamically adjusts the number of repetitions depending on the type of channel: there is no obligation to repeat the message 32 times every time.
  • Roaming : agreements already exist between Orange Belgium, AT&T (USA), KPN (Netherlands), Swisscom (Switzerland) and others are in progress: in particular Spain, Romania, Canada…

In 2021, an important step will be taken with the addition of voice functionality in VoLTE. The deployment date is set for the first quarter of 2021. Modules with 2G / 3G fallback to have this functionality already exist today, however requiring an additional cost.

If no official date for the end of 2G and 3G services in France has yet been officially communicated, this could change shortly: Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, mentioned the date of 2025 for some of the services.

Whether it’s for your existing designs or for those to come, it’s time to project yourself into this new context. The Bosch Mondeville teams are at your disposal to guide you towards sustainable choices of communication technologies, operated or not.

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