Hot Seat: Sprinting to Succeed AT&T’s 2G Sunset
AT&T declared last summer it would phase out its 2G networks by 2017, portending the demise of millions of 2G alarm communicators. Sprint has since pursued a strategic course to invest in and expand its own 2G service and is actively recruiting the security industry and its legions of vendor and monitoring/installing firms. Craig Creason of Sprint joins the conversation to discuss in detail the company’s plans.
What’s causing the most confusion in the market about AT&T’s 2G sunset?
When we say 2G we understand the security industry has typically equated 2G with GSM technology. GSM is only one of the national wireless network technologies in the United States; the other being CDMA. There’s been a lot of concern about 2G GSM going away and that’s why Sprint is stepping in to say, “Hey, industry, don’t fear 2G GSM going away because Sprint is committed to support multiple technologies — including 1xRTT, 3G and 4G LTE — operating on multiple spectrum bands.”
We’re here to support 1xRTT for the long-term as a part of our Network Vision plan, which consolidates multiple network technologies onto one seamless network.
Can you define long-term?
We get that question a lot. Sprint believes1xRTT remains an important network option for business customers, including those that deploy M2M [Machine-to-Machine] solutions as part of their service or product offerings. Sprint anticipates offering the service through 2020.
Many M2M applications today are fully supported by 2G or 1xRTT. In Sprint’s case, this includes connected smart meters for utilities and telematics applications used by transportation companies. Our belief is that 1xRTT has a long path in the future because so many of the M2M use cases do not need the higher bandwidth.
Is Sprint working mainly with security product manufacturers with its 2G strategy?
We’re typically working with the alarm-panel manufacturers as well as the central station providers. Then they have the downstream [communication] to the dealers from there. Longevity is the concern across the whole industry. The dealers don’t want to put a product out there that’s not going to be supported long-term. Generally the industry is looking for a 7-10 year shelf life for these products. The dealers want something easy they can count on to be in the market for many years to come.
What is the migration process to Sprint’s network?
It’s going to vary from alarm panel to alarm panel. Let’s say a customer has an alarm in a city where AT&T’s 2G service is going away. That dealer would make contact with that customer and arrange to change out the hardware. It can be as simple as changing out the module so that alarm panel now talks to Sprint’s network versus AT&T’s network. Or it is an opportunity to upsell the customer with new equipment that has CDMA in it. You’re replacing all of the equipment with new equipment versus just changing out the radio module inside the equipment.
There are a couple of ways to go about it. Probably it depends on where that customer is in the life of their unit. Is it a very old unit? Was it a recent sell? Is there some kind of warranty or support that would have to go along with changing technologies?
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What is your principal message to security dealers? Would it be that they have ample time to convert existing clients to 3G or there is no need to take action whatsoever?
We think now the time is right, so predominantly our understanding is the majority of wireless security units today are running on AT&T’s network. AT&T has put a date out there for which that network will no longer be supported or that technology will no longer be supported. The industry can now begin migrating to 1xRTT or 3G CDMA, begin developing new products that have CDMA in it. So as different cities and markets go dark with GSM, these companies have products that are ready to go to market that can be transitioned or migrated over without experiencing a disruption of service. An added financial benefit is that CDMA modules cost significantly less than 3G ones, so they don’t have to incur an unnecessary expense.
Sprint is conducting a number of seminars across the country to educate stakeholders about its 2G strategy. Would a security dealer benefit from attending one of these?
Yes. As a matter of fact, we held one in June at the ESX show in Nashville. We’d originally put the road show in place with our partners Taoglas, an antenna company, and u-blox, a wireless module manufacturer. U-blox, Sprint and Taoglas are hosting the CDMA M2M seminars to promote the fact that 1xRTT CDMA from Sprint is here for the long-term. The objective is to assist solution providers in either developing a new product using our products and services, or transitioning or migrating existing products to our technology.
The u-blox module goes into the security panel; they make both a GSM version and a CDMA version. They have basically the same footprint so you can unplug one and plug the other one in. That’s the purpose of these road shows — to help customers and solution providers understand the transition can be fairly seamless. We’re helping to make it easy.
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