How to Use the Transition to 4G LTE to Future-Proof your IoT Application

We’re all aware that due to the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks it’s imperative that we make the switch to 4G LTE. The question is: how? Here’s our simple step-by-step guide to making the changes required.

Step 1: Identify

Do a thorough and systematic check of all and any devices that only support 2G or 3G. You don’t want to be caught unawares when your provider switches off 2G or 3G and your system suddenly goes offline.

Being unprepared can have serious consequences. In 2017 about 70% of the buses and trains in the San Francisco rapid transit system suddenly stopped providing arrival times after AT&T turned off its 2G network. It took several weeks to upgrade all the legacy devices. Can you afford for your system to be offline for weeks?

Step 2: Document

documenting IoT devices for future upgrades beyond 4GIn an ideal world, you would have logged each and every network connected device when it was first purchased. If you had then you would now have a complete and well-organized inventory including what each device does, where it is, and what its technical specifications are.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. While having to migrate to LTE isn’t ideal you should use it as an opportunity to catalog all your devices. This way you can be prepared for any future changes.

Step 3: Evaluate the technology options

Think about the function that IoT devices serve for you and what is most important for your company. Is low latency a priority? Or is a long battery life or simultaneous upload and download more important? Your devices’ use will help you to decide which new network technology is most appropriate for you. There’s a lot to consider. Particularly if you operate globally.

old pay phoneFor many IoT applications that only need to transmit a small amount of data (such as asset trackers, smart meters and sensor nodes) cellular LPWAN (LTE CATM or NB-IoT) may be the best solution. One advantage of connecting via cellular LPWAN is that it can drastically extend battery life (the LP is for low power after all). This is particularly useful for devices in remote locations or which can’t be connected to a power source. However, there is not yet a single technology which is being deployed globally. For example, LTE-M is the cellular LPWAN being used predominantly in the US whereas NB-IoT is favored in Europe and Asia. NB-IoT isn’t designed for mobile assets, which can present a challenge if you don’t have the option to fall back on an existing technology such as 2G.

However, different applications have different requirements, so potentially cellular LPWAN isn’t appropriate. Don’t worry – you still have options. LTE CAT1 offers similar speeds to 3G and CATs 3-9 offer faster throughput for more data-hungry applications.

If you are unsure about what is right for you then seek advice from experts who will listen and take your particular needs into account. Pod is an agnostic provider. We make impartial recommendations based on what is best for your business.

Step 4: Device compatibility

box of coloured chalksSo you’ve picked your technology, but now you need to make sure it will work in the geographic region you operate in or with your network of choice.

2G networks operated on four bands between 850 MHz and 1,900 MHz. 3G added two bands at 1,700 MHz and 2,100 MHz. In contrast, 4G now has more than 40 bands defined and many products are offered in regional variants, often split into the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.

So when you compare hardware vendors make sure you look at the banding for each model and ensure it works for you. Taking the US as an example, large areas on specific networks might only be covered by a single band (T-Mobile band 12) and that might represent their extended coverage so looking at the banding is essential if T-Mobile is your operator of choice. If you have a global business select a partner that has products in the regions where you need coverage.

As an MVNO we have agreements with over 600 networks worldwide and a presence in 185 countries. With us you can stay connected wherever your business takes you. 

Step 5: Double Check

Think you have it nailed down? Always better to be safe than sorry. Our Business Development team have in-depth knowledge of the connectivity options and the hardware and software that will best suit your application. Future-proofing your application means taking a good look at how your hardware choices now will affect your device connectivity in the future.

We work with a community of carefully selected hardware partners with devices that have been tried and tested with our connectivity. Their expertise makes them uniquely placed to provide you with any additional support you may need. They provide a variety of options to allow you to keep your devices in the field. Speak to our team, tell them exactly what you need, and we’ll find the right hardware provider for you. This means that you will only have one point of contact, which keeps things nice and simple. In addition, our friendly support team is on hand 24/7.

Step 6: Always keep an eye on the future

woman looking through a telescopeHaving upgraded to 4G/LTE you’ll be anxious to ensure that you won’t need to make any more big connectivity upgrades in the near future. With the different types of connectivity available it can be challenging to choose the best option to ensure your needs are met now and in the future. This is why it is key to work with an agnostic provider who will tailor their solution to your needs.

As for future SIM technology, it is important to know about the benefits of eUICC. In most cases one SIM card holds one SIM profile. However, eUICC restructures the SIM to allow for multiple profiles on one card. This allows users to change their SIM profile if a network band is sunsetted. With eUICC you can add or ‘provision’ SIM profiles Over the Air (OTA) without removing the SIM from a device. This allows you to keep your device in the field.

All types of connectivity can be managed through our platform and, because our SIMs have multi-IMSI capabilities, we can update the SIM profile remotely.

Step 7: Go!

Seize the day! Taste the future! Leave nothing un-upgraded…

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