Legacy switch-off could leave IoT in the lurch, claims research

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Internet of Things developers could be left floundering after 2020 as operators switch off their legacy cellular networks, a new study has warned.

The report by Machina Research looked at the growing trend amongst operators to switch off their legacy networks in order to re-farm spectrum for LTE.

According to the research firm, this trend is creating uncertainty for cellular IoT application builders regarding which technology to base their products on.

While a number of European telcos have announced their intention to switch off their legacy networks - most notably Telenor, Swisscom and more recently T-Mobile Czech Republic - Machina said that many telcos on the continent have yet to be clear about their future plans.

As a result, by 2020 it will become increasingly difficult to guarantee 2G and 3G network availability for IoT in developed markets, the research firm said.

It concluded that IoT developers would be “well advised” to give careful consideration to the network technology they adopt.

Report author Matt Hatton said that while embedding both 2G/3G and LTE into IoT solutions was one option, it wasn’t a viable one.

He said: “There is a simple solution: embed all the available generations into your device. However, for many implementations, the additional bill of materials cost would be substantial, and one that most would want to avoid. 

“Therefore, any company looking at cost-effectively deploying cellular-based IoT over the next few years will need to understand which technologies are going to be available in which countries.”

In order to maintain the prospects of cellular-based IoT, Machina concluded that mobile operators needed to be “as transparent as possible” about their plans for their legacy networks and reveal their intentions “as far in advance as possible.”

Hatton said: “Any company deploying cellular-based IoT will need clarity over which technologies will be available and for how long. Lack of clarity risks problems with higher costs, stranded devices in the field, or slower IoT deployments as potential customers adopt a wait-and-see approach.”