GSM switch off good news for phone users, not for con­nected de­vices

Tech Advisor - - NEWS -

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.

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