Is 2G doomed?

While nearly everyone agrees that landline telephone service - or POTS (plain old telephone service) lines as many people in the industry like to refer to them as - have seen their heyday, getting dealers to make the transition from 2G-GSM cellular alarm communicators to ones that are 3G or 4G compatible has been another story altogether.

One company that is trying to give dealers some extra motivation to make the switch is Telguard, a division of Telular Corporation. This week at the ESX tradeshow in Nashville, Tenn., the company had show hotels slip an information sheet about the company’s new incentive program under the door of attendees.

Under the program, Shawn Welsh, vice president of marketing and business development for Telular, said that installers who replace old communicators from any company with one of Telguard’s new 3G/4G units will be given a $25 credit on their account. All the dealer has to do is remove the SIM card from the old 2G communicator, place it an envelope and mail it to Telguard.

Welsh has been a big proponent of the move away from 2G technology for sometime. Earlier this year at ISC West, Welsh told me that there has already been some talk in the industry about the potential sunsetting of 2G communications and that dealers need to install 3G/4G products to stay ahead of the technology curve.

"I think the trend the industry is going to see is the move to 3G," Welsh told me at the time. "We're going to have to fight this idea of procrastination in the industry."

More important than speed, however, Welsh said 3G technology would provide the industry with a cellular communications platform that has longevity. "Our industry does not need speed," he added. "We need to build our products on a communications platform that isn't going away."

While the move to 3G and 4G communicators may be inevitable, others in the industry are not quite as sold on how quick this transition is going to occur.

I also spoke with Michael Boyle, general manager of Uplink, at ISC West who told me that nothing has been set in stone with regards to any phasing out of 2G technology. In fact, he believed that a mass migration away from 2G would be bit premature at this point.

"We don't think (2G) is going away anytime soon," he said. "The reality is the FCC hasn't said anything about it. Until they set a date, it's just pie in the sky."

In addition, Boyle said that even if the FCC were to decide to sunset 2G that a move to 3G might not be all that prudent being that it may be the next in line to go. "The move to 3G is like kissing your sister," Boyle said. "If 2G is going away, 3G is too."

With that being said, however, there is evidence to suggest that the carriers, primarily AT&T, are in the preliminary stages of weaning consumers off of 2G technology. For example, AT&T recently sent letters to customers in New York urging them to swap out there old 2G phones for ones that can run on the 3G network, according to a story published by The letter reportedly warned customers that they may not be able to make or receive calls and may experience a “degradation” of their wireless service.

A leaked internal email from the company even suggests that the company is working on a "2G exit strategy." And though it’s not a carrier on the order of AT&T, T-Mobile has seen a substantial shift in its user base as it was recently reported that 92 percent of the company’s device sales in the fourth quarter were of 3G and 4G-enabled devices. At least on the surface, it appears that the carriers are preparing themselves for the eventual demise of 2G, even though no one can say when exactly that will take place on a much broader scale. As with AT&T’s request for the FCC to begin phasing out POTS lines, these things take time. Less people may be using landline telephones today, but they all haven’t exactly been ripped off the poles just yet.

I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with many dealers themselves about this subject, but I would have to imagine that this is a pretty frustrating situation. On one hand, you want to be able to provide an affordable solution to your customer that’s going to be reliable, but you also have to weigh if that technology is going to become obsolete at some point in the near future. While I think most people foresaw the demise of landline telephones with the proliferation of mobile devices, the changing of cellular communications protocols has taken place much more rapidly. I think it’s time for telcos to provide the industry with some clarity as it pertains to the viability of these cellular platforms.