As Australia’s connectivity landscape evolves, network carriers are firmly focused on the roll out of 5G and the gradual shutdown of legacy networks – namely 3G. At the end of June 2024, Telstra will turn off its 3G cell towers nationwide and Vodafone have announced they will turn off their 3G network on 15th Dec 2023.
For most, this transition will go unnoticed, but for businesses which rely on these signals to deliver essential services, the clock is ticking. Unlike the millennium bug which failed to impact industry on the scale predicted, the 3G shutdown is guaranteed to bite.
On an M2M webinar last week titled ‘The Ultimate 3G Shutdown Survival Guide’, myself and Wayne Law, Device, Spectrum & Standards Lead at Telstra Enterprise, took participants through the realities of the 3G shutdown and shared our advice on how, in the short window available, organisations can successfully survive this transition.
The realities ahead
We estimate that Australia has between 2 and 3 million active IoT devices operating on 3G. M2M alone provides 170,000 3G connections to its customers.
Telstra has confirmed it will shutdown its 3G network on 30 June, 2024, with Vodafone flicking the switch a few months earlier on 15 December, 2023. Optus has not given a hard date but has started reallocating its 3G 2100MHz spectrum band.
The reality is that companies have 18 months, or 406 workdays (as of 23rd November), to execute and complete this transition.
Timing is everything
When planning to make this transition it is critical to create a transition timeline, which includes, consultation, testing, evaluation and rollout phases.
Given the tight timeframe, the first priority is to develop a project scope, understand your requirements and identify any risks to your business or customers – so you can secure and assign resources.
Key considerations include:
- understanding whether existing devices can be upgraded to support 4G/5G
- assessing if LTE is the right type of connectivity, researching suppliers
- taking hardware lead times into account – especially if sourced from suppliers overseas.
Based on a utility with 2000 sites currently on 3G, transitioning 4 sites per day (using 2 crews), we calculate it would take approximately 500 days – from kick off to completion.
Lessons from our customers
To date, we have helped multiple organisations transition off 3G. This includes fleets of connected parking meters for councils, GPS devices for emergency services, ticketing solutions for public transport providers, and SCADA devices used by Utilities to monitor sewer networks.
A key theme of each of these projects has been the unhidden costs of project planning, and the small surprises, which can have a big impact.
For example, 4G does not always work where 3G works, antennas purchased to support 3G may not be compatible with 4G, power and connector requirement may be different, and it is likely a new SIM plan will be required.
Five steps to success
Ultimately, the most important factor is to not underestimate the time it will take to upgrade. To ensure a smooth transition, we recommend:
- Talk to M2M – Speak to our experts who can kick start the migration process and help you plan and manage your transition.
- Take stock – Identify the number of active 3G devices and non-4G voice calling enabled 4G devices out on the field.
- Identify your needs – Understand the needs of both existing devices and new/future devices to maximise ROI.
- Evaluate your options – Consider the functions of your IoT devices and the most suitable network technology.
- Set a timeline – Map out a transition timeline so you’re prepared for the change.
With almost twenty years’ of experience designing, integrating and providing the data for industrial IoT systems, we are well positioned to assist your organisation with its transition off 3G.
By combining our unique in-house engineering expertise with the best hardware and data services available, we believe we can help your organisation make a smooth transition which will future-proof your devices and deliver reliable connectivity for years to come.