One of the more interesting comments to come out of the carrier panel at Connected World's M2M Conference in St. Charles, Ill., this week came from several operator executives who said developers and innovators in the M2M space should not worry about low-capacity 2G networks going away, forcing them to develop their apps and devices for 3G or 4G.
A panel comprised of Jeremy Korst, vice president at T-Mobile USA; Glenn Lurie, president of emerging enterprises and partnerships at AT&T; Mansell Nelson, vice president of machine to machine at Rogers Wireless; Janet Schijns, vice president of vertical industry solutions and channels for Verizon Enterprise Solutions; Wayne Ward, vice president-Emerging Solutions Group at Sprint Nextel; and moderated by Connected World editorial director and president, Peggy Smedley, discussed this and other topics including security.
Schijns said the 2G questions is fundamental to Verizon today. "If you look at fleet [management] and some of the things they are doing in utilities and manufacturing, 2G will continue to be important. As we have made the logical investments in the 700 Mhz, we are also making the logical investments in 2G."
While all panelists said they would continue to support 2G and even actively offer it in the right circumstances, she was the most adamant about M2M partners fully considering LTE for their implementations.
"We understand [building M2M] on 2G is important, but I would encourage people to look carefully at their solution. It will cost a certain amount of money if you ever want to replace that module, because you are taking something for small data--thirsty but not that thirsty--and replacing it with applications that use more data. You have to look at the lifecycle of the whole solutions and if you believe the solution is ever going to need more data you should go to LTE because it is much more expensive to drive out and replace modules," she said.
AT&T's Lurie agreed with the concept of meeting customer needs but while assuring them AT&T would continue to meet those needs in 2G, encouraged them to future-proof their solutions.
"One thing we all have to understand is that spectrum is so scarce. It is causing us to upstream maybe even faster than we want to go because there is so much usage for us," Lurie said. "We are trying to sit down with everyone and discuss their needs for today and tomorrow, because if you do underestimate and don't future-proof your device, you will come back to us to change modules out or have [a] customer who, down the road, could be stranded."
Lurie said the reality is that more people are already planning to go to 3G. So the question becomes more about whether they need to go to LTE and how fast.
Many reports have appeared in the press that AT&T is retiring its 2G network and several attendees at the conference commented on the lack of confidence they had about the company supporting it for M2M users.