GSM switch off good news for phone users, not for connected devices
Carriers around the world are converging on 2017 as the year to turn off their GSM networks, with three operators in Singapore announcing Monday their plans to reuse their GSM spectrum for other services.
The end of GSM will free up more bandwidth for faster 3G and 4G network technologies – but will also force users of older connected devices that depend on GSM networks to upgrade or replace them.
On Monday Singaporean operators M1, Singtel and StarHub became the latest operators to set a timetable for turning off their GSM networks. They will do so on April 1, 2017, following in the footsteps of Telstra in Australia, which plans to do so by the end of 2016, and AT&T in the US, which will flip the switch on 1 January 2017.
For many mobile users, the switch-off could pass almost unnoticed. Today, the majority of mobile customers have phones that also connect to 3G and 4G networks; only a small percentage of subscribers still use GSM-only phones, according to the Singaporean operators. When Telstra made
Mikael Ricknäs reports
devices shipping today rely on GSM, Machina Research CEO Matt Hatton explained.
Upgrading the network will be worth it, though, according to AT&T. The higher speeds offered by 3G and 4G networks will enable enterprises to deliver better M2M applications. For example, video cameras for real-time streaming and driver dash cameras for fleet trucks will be possible.
Not all operators are as aggressive in their plans to turn off GSM. In general, European operators are being a bit more cautious. For French network operator Orange, there will no big switch off, according to Yves Bellego, director of Technical and Network Strategy at the French operator. Norwegian operator Telenor plans to turn off its 3G network in 2020, and its GSM network in 2025, it recently announced.
The reticence to make the move isn’t just down to wanting to support existing M2M devices. The European operators still have lucrative roaming businesses and could run into some regulatory issues if they decide to turn off GSM networks in the next couple of years, according to Hatton.