While 4G has higher transmission speeds compared to 3G, many in the industry believe that the transmission capabilities of 3G are more than adequate for alarm transmission as well as other machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. Furthermore, adding more expensive 4G technology to alarm communicators would burden the product with pricy components that do not realistically improve communications or performance. The current 2G network is more than capable of supporting the needs of existing alarm communicators and the need to change to 3G is primarily driven by the fact that the carriers are migrating away from 2G.
While customers will see improvements due to the increased throughput for devices where larger amounts of data are used (i.e. uploading/downloading over cellular) the speed is not critical — most data transmissions are smaller in size than a basic email. Most important to the debate is the expected life cycle, and the North American carriers themselves project that 3G/4G (HSPA/HSPA+) technology will share a common lifespan as the carrier’s high volume users will continue to migrate the 4G LTE network as it expands across the country.
Several manufacturers are offering devices that use CDMA technology, which is, in essence, a switch from 2G GPRS technology to 2G CDMA or 1xRTT, which is expected to offer a lifecycle similar to 3G/4G offerings.
Planning a Migration Strategy
With ongoing preparations by the carriers to reallocate bandwidth from the 2G network to support expansions of 3G/4G service, the usefulness of 2G lessens with each passing day.
To aid in the upgrades, manufacturers are offering a wide range of communicator swap-out programs that offer 3G replacements for 2G communicators, with a variety of options, including reduced or equivalent 2G pricing for 3G communicators. Others offer a variety of rebates, account credits or upgrade incentives on related equipment.
Make sure to review your options carefully and choose a conversion program that provides the path away from 2G that best fits your business and allows for the least disruption in service as the carriers transition away from older technology.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of communicating to your customers the need to upgrade their alarm system’s communicator — and what it means to them.
Many dealers are bundling free upgrades from 2G with extensions or renewals of monitoring contracts to help offset the cost and improve the customer experience. Other dealers are planning to swap out the 2G equipment in conjunction with service calls on other items, avoiding the additional expense of a separate truck roll.
Although the U.S. market is one of the first in which the 2G sunset is booked on the calendar, other major carriers around the world are expected to announce formal plans for their 2G migration, and have already reduced or stopped their investment in the 2G network. For example, Australia has already begun its 2G phaseout, and areas like Mexico City are grappling with severe congestion issues on 2G due to reduced capacity in that market. As the U.S. security market continues its transition, a solid plan can help alleviate many of the expected growing pains associated with the sunset.