While 2G/3G connectivity has adequately served the largely low power, low usage purposes of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications in industrial manufacturing, supply chain, logistics or warehousing industries, today’s business environment and technology advancements call for more advanced connectivity. With the emergence and mainstreaming of Internet of Things (IoT) technology and its subset Industrial IoT (IIoT), there is an urgent need for faster, more reliable, and secure connectivity with lower latency. And so, most telecom majors are sunsetting 2G/3GOpens a new window in favor of more advanced and efficient connectivity networks designed for a connected future. This means businesses actively using 2G and 3G connectivity today need to start preparing for a migration to the more advanced 4G LTE and ultimately 5G to keep business and hardware running without disruption.
Soberingly though, this James Brehm & AssociatesÂ reportOpens a new window exposes the current gap between what telecom majors are planning and how prepared the user industries are for the upgrade and resulting transformation. Over 50% of today’s IoT deployments are still on 2G or 3G â€” this puts many businesses at risk of disconnection when the 3G sunset officially hits in 2022. Approximately 65 million devices would be directly impacted. Unarguably, millions of businesses with M2M connections are left with no choice but to upgrade to 4G LTE networks that offer higher bandwidth and low latency for more data-intensive applications. And while the ultimate benefits of the advanced connectivity will accrue to the user industries, what it means today is an urgency to prepare a migration plan that can ensure a seamless, disruption-free cutover from 2G/ 3G to 4G LTE or 5G in the near future.
4G or 5G? What Should We Migrate to, and Why?
With the much-touted 5G network available, should businesses with M2M/IoT deployments opt for 4G LTE or 5G? What should they plan to migrate to? Undoubtedly, 5G arrived at the right time â€” just when IoT deployments were taking off. The next-gen, higher bandwidth wireless technology has been hailed for delivering best-in-class digital connectivity experience and promises a massive digital transformation leap for all industries. Especially in the Industry 4.0, Automation and Connected industries ecosystem, 5G can help prepare for the next-generation data surge from IoT devices, smart factories, and connected cars, and open the door to many new opportunities. 5G will also move the needle on cutting-edge Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) applications pivotal for driving digital transformation (DX) initiatives.
So what role will 4G LTE play and why should an organization not just migrate directly to the more advanced 5G?
The answer really depends on variables specific to each organization. Since 5G technology lends itself better to compelling near-term business use cases, organizations dealing with a swathe of IoT and M2M applications would do well to ask themselves how 5G can be leveraged within their organization for immediate business outcomes. More to the point â€” are there any compelling 5G business use cases that can strengthen product development and open new revenue streams?
There are potential areas that 4G technologies are better at addressing. For instance, it can adequately power remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and process automation at a significantly lower cost. In the transportation industry, fleet managers can effectively address evolving connectivity challenges and secure data and cargo with faster 4G networks.
Hence, determining which generation of cellular technology will best suit the business needs largely depends on whether the company can reap a short-term boost with an immediate 5G upgrade or if it can wait. With support planned for 4G networks for at least another decade if not more, you can safely invest in a migration plan that upgrades to 4G LTE in 2022 and paves the way for cutting-edge 5G solutions in the long-term, as hardware and other solutions around the 5G ecosystem become more ubiquitous.
Even then, leading consulting firm BainOpens a new window suggests that â€œ5G technology will evolve to allow 4G and 5G to coexist in the same spectrum with the same node equipment.â€ Given that many components of 5G technology build on 4G networks, the upgrade will not be a complete departure, and instead provide a migration path to 5G expansion in the future.
Put another way, now is the time to build your 4G network with an eye on a smooth migration to 5G as your business requirements mature.
Cost of Inaction: Don’t Adopt the Go-Slow Approach
The impact of sunsetOpens a new window will largely be felt by M2M customers operating with a large base of installed devices who need to move away from legacy 2G networks to 4G-compatible hardware. While businesses may have the luxury of choosing between 4G LTE and 5G, the upgrade from 2G or 3G legacy networks is already concrete and immediate next step. A wait-and-watch approach on the 4G LTE migration can put your operations and project timeline at risk, given the impending 2G and 3G sunsets over the next year or two. Additionally, further delaying the upgrade can stress the bottom line and curb margins even as competitors are already able to deliver better experiences over 4G technology.
For IT pros managing network infrastructure, risking business continuity in the hopes that a migration will be stayed can prove too costly. It’s time to put in place a plan of action to move from legacy cellular technology to the next-gen 4G LTE network.
To avoid added costs, make necessary preparations now by projecting the capital and operating expenses and getting the buy-in from management and corporate governance teams for a smooth migration.
As you begin your own migration journey, these five best practices will help you get started and stay on track for a successful 4G networkOpens a new window deployment:
1. Building a Migration Strategy Aligned With Business Goals
Before you get started, give careful thought to your business case for 4G migration and begin an audit of your current technology to establish a baseline. For instance, organizations in the telematics space that deal with large footprints and have made a massive investment in the application infrastructure should start by taking into account the acquisition cost of hardware and software along with additional functionality. Organizations should map the initial acquisition costs and the IT resources necessary to set up and configure devices. To eliminate points of failure, rigorously validate the business case to understand how the transition will fit into your organization.
You may need to do some additional technology road-mapping. A 4G LTE migrationOpens a new window may unlock new IoT applications within your organization or allow you to continue leveraging technology you’ve already invested in. This means where you go next with your migration planning is highly dependent on your business goals.
While keeping your goals in mind, be sure to outline your migration requirements as you develop your strategy:
- Functional: How your technology will process data and leverage 4G
- Quality: Usability, reliability, availability, modifiability, security, and performance
In managing technology change within your organization, your migration strategy will serve as your lodestar. It’s essential that you plan carefully for a successful deployment. If you’re working with a technology provider, they may be able to help with this step, drawing on their past experience and their knowledge of the technologies you use and plan to deploy.
2. Ensuring QoS (Quality of Service) Management With Your Technology Advisor
During a 4G migration, you should have a plan to control quality. QoS methods typically include monitoring traffic and network performance. Your quality management plan, prepared in close consultation with your technology advisor, should include KPIs and quality metrics that align with your migration strategy and quality requirements. Additionally, the solutions provider should be able to accommodate an increase in demand without impacting delivery of service. On the 4G network, your technology advisor may help you set up prioritization for your business data. You can monitor your devices’ performance to improve QoS.
As part of your QoS planning, consider:
- Your risk analysis findings: A thorough risk assessment should help you maintain continuity by identifying potential challenges that could occur during migration and activation
- User experience: Ensure better user experiences by keeping your migration seamless
- Your quality assurance plan: QoS doesn’t happen by accident, so having a plan is essential
In a world of rapidly evolving technology, business needs are bound to change. The technology provider should be flexible to adapt and keep up with changing business requirements. Additionally, in an age where data breaches cause massive disruption and reputational harm, understand how your technology vendor deals with historical data collected from the company.
3. Making Security an Integral Part of Transition
Network security helps protect your assets as well as the data you have in transit through your network. 4G security works a bit differently from how legacy 3G network security operates, so you may benefit from seeking specialized expertise in this area from a technology advisor who draws on decades of experience.
Although 4G includes some security improvements over 3G, you will still want to optimize your security. Content encryption, authentication, and other end-to-end security functionality can help you protect your business. If security isn’t an integral part of your transition, your technology investments could be at risk.
Not all solution providers are created equal. A good technology provider would provide solutions that adhere to stringent security protocols and put in place safeguards to eliminate redundancy and points of failure during the transition.
4. Designing for the Long Term
Your business can gain the most momentum from today’s interconnected technologies by thinking ahead. Looking at tomorrow’s technology applications and how they can promote your organization’s business goals can help you apply the right mindset as you plan and implement your 4G migration strategy.
Low-power wide-area (LPWA) networking uses 4G for healthcare, smart cities, connected buildings, and other monitoring and reporting technology applications. Businesses will likely be able to leverage technology investments in 4G networking for at least another decade, meaning there is potential upside for many companies that are considering IoT implementation.
With the right long-term design, your organization can plan ahead while also adapting infrastructure for a future 5G migrationOpens a new window . This is where working with a single, proven technology advisor that draws on decades of experience pays off versus managing handoffs with various solution providers. Your trusted knowledge advisor should have deep expertise in wireless technologies, know how to get your networks communicating, and recommend solutions for the long-term.
5. Ensuring Your Mobile Network Operator (MNO)/Technology Advisor Provides Customer Support and Value-Added Services
Unfortunately, 40% of companies with 2G or 3G devices haven’t received notification from their carriers about the upcoming sunset, according to researchOpens a new window by James Brehm & Associates. Organizations that aren’t prepared could experience service disruptions.
Customer support from your technology advisor can help your organization ensure a smoother transition into 4G. With the substantial number of companies that are unprepared for the 2022 sunset of 3G, organizations that prepare now and acquire the right expertise could see a competitive advantage in their industries over other businesses.
Before you decide on a technology provider to help with the transition, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Experience: Does my provider have experience consulting with businesses in my industry on a network migration?
- Support: What support will I receive before, during, and after the migration?
- Roadmapping: Will I receive assistance with the technology audit, security risk assessment, and migration planning?
- Sourcing: Is additional support with sourcing technology available? Will my consulting team help me make the most of the technology I’ve already invested in?
- Additional services: Are other value-added services available during the transition?
Be sure to take the opportunity to review answers to these questions carefully and with your business goals and metrics in mind. Additionally, conduct due diligence to avoid a negative business outcome down the road during the transition. Selecting the right technology vendorOpens a new window can help you leverage the experience and expertise of consultants who are knowledgeable about 4G LTE migrations.
If you haven’t made the 4G migration yet, now is the time. AT&T BusinessOpens a new window has decades of experience helping businesses of all sizes and industries in network migrations. AT&T Business has the pieces in-house to help organizations migrate faster and easier. From design to integration and business process consulting, AT&T Business helps businesses accelerate network migration.
Opens a new window Move To 4G LTE With AT&T BusinessOpens a new window
Mobile carriers are planning to stop 2G and 3G services soon. Businesses should expedite the adoption of 4G LTE or LTE-M services. AT&T Business, a leading network with robust platforms and solutions is the apt choice for your 4G LTE upgrade.
Looking at the 5G Horizon
Yes, 5G is here and represents the future. Over the next decade and beyond, 5G will become the go-to choice as a connectivity solution for driving breakthroughs in performance and delivering near real-time control over processes such as predictive maintenance, intelligent factory automation, and digital supply chain efficiencies across industries.
Though 5G trialsOpens a new window in industries are on an upswing, 4G LTE can help maximize connectivity and deliver performance boost in terms of speed, latency and bandwidth through to the next decade, until 5G is mainstreamed. Additionally, 4G is the right pathway to unlocking the faster, more advanced 5G networking technology.
A smart plan based on your organization’s business goals and a realistic technology audit can help your company position itself for a successful migration. So start with a plan, lay a strong foundation and understand the top use cases where a 4G network upgrade can help you execute digitalization plans and achieve your business goals.