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For a project I'm working on we are orienting on the available mobile data connections. Because the current cellular connections are in a transition from G to LTE, I'm not sure whats the right desicion. From what I read about the 2G and 3G networks I have the feeling that theyre not going to be supported another 10 - 15 years. The 3G network is sure to shut down anytime soon (2021 in USA). The 2G network is a bit more complicated. Some providers say they will keep the 2G network alive because of many M2M applications use the 2G network. Some say the network will shutdown soon like 3G.

The reason I want to explore the possibilities with 2G is the (module) price and the worldwide coverage. These are the criteria for my project:

  • M2M
  • Embedded module with serial interface
  • As cheap as possible (module and price/mb)
  • Speed is not so much of a concern. 2G speed (56kbps) is sufficient
  • Worldwide support
  • Supported for another 15 years (the lifetime of our assets)

Next to the 'old' 2G 3G and 4G networks the LTE cat-m is coming up. LTE cat-me seems to be the right choice for M2M solutions in the future. This might be interesting for us, but the problem is that the network is upcoming and not avaliable globally. I think that it can take a few years before its globally supported. Besides that, the price/mb is going to be higher than the 2G/3G/4G prices as we know them.

I hope someone can clear things up.

  • 1
    Nice question. I don't have an answer, but you might need to think again about the 15 year goal, and what that is worth to you (compared with a gen2 product in a few years). – Sean Houlihane Oct 31 '17 at 8:45
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    An interesting question, but it may be better suited to a discussion venue than a Q&A site. Having said that, if you can supply a little bit more information about the actual problem the device you are designing will solve it may help direct the answers a little. (things like does it have to work everywhere, what are the consequences of it failing to report in for a while, is it static or moving) – hardillb Oct 31 '17 at 9:52
  • are you always guaranteed to have network coverage, or can this be used out in the forest or on top of a mountain – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 31 '17 at 11:50
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    Upgrading 2G by major carriers. Why You Must Replace 2G Telematics Devices Now. This Sept 2016 article says phasing out of 2G in 2020s M2M will keep 2G networks alive into 2020s, says report. See also The Top 5 Misconceptions about 2G Sunsetting. – Richard Chambers Oct 31 '17 at 12:14
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    Hey, thanks for your answers so far. The product i'm designing is for rental products. They can be deployed all over the world, in all kinds of places - also places where the mobile network is not that strong, so we also want to incorporate some local data buffer for when the mobile connection fails. The objects are moving, but when moving only the location has to be tracked. As for the 15 year goal and a gen2 product, we do not want to have to upgrade our product after say 8 years. Because we have so much assets, this would cost to much. We need to provide a 15yr soluton. – Jan Roorda Oct 31 '17 at 14:01
6

LoRaWAN

You might consider LoRaWAN.

In Belgium & The Netherlands LoRaWAN coverage is pretty good in populated areas; both free and for a fee. Traditional cellular providers in a number of Western European countries are also catching up with LoRaWAN: KPN (Netherlands), Proximus (Belgium), Swisscom, Orange (France)…

Figure: Wireless Things coverage map in Belgium & The Netherlands Wireless Things coverage map in Belgium & The Netherlands

Hopefully, the same will happen in the US — instead of the usual «not-invented-here» syndrome.

On the other hand, if you can afford a module like Pycom's FiPy one does not even need to chose a network…

Crystal ball articles

Finally, here is a still relevant December 2015 article trying to predict the future of LoRa vs LTE-M vs Sigfox. Even more US alternatives are mentioned in this article.

There is also a more recent January 2017 article for NB-IOT vs. LoRa vs. Sigfox.

PS: In my surroundings, quite a bit of people (myself included) still hold dear to their sturdy, spyware-free 2G phones with a battery standby time of two weeks. Hopefully, for some more years to come…

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5

Sigfox

Sigfox pretends to become a global LPWAN operator using proprietary uplink-only narrow-band LPWAN technology over a subscription-based proprietary network. All data will have to pass Sigfox servers.

They are VC funded, so the investors will want to make a return or eventually bail out. That, more than the technology, may determine their longevity and what comes afterwards. [Source]

Coverage

Sigfox coverage is published on a live map.

Sigfox legal limitations

Sigfox signals have a much lower bandwidth than LoRaWAN chirp spread spectrum signals that are typically 125kHz wide. Hence, Sigfox signals will require considerably more time to transmit the same amount of information. This limits the applicability in Europe where the transmission duty cycle is restricted to 1%.

As the current version of Sigfox uses public radio frequencies (aka ISM bands), we have to comply with the sharing rules in place in the different regions of the world to keep these bands available for everybody.

For instance, in Europe, the ETSI regulation allows devices on these frequencies to send messages for 1% of the time per hour. Devices can only send a defined number of message per day to be compliant with the rule, and our commercial contracts were designed to match this limitation.

It is a direct application of the European ETSI regulation:

  • There are 3,600 seconds in one hour.
  • 1% of 3,600 is 36 seconds, so a device can emit for 36 seconds per hour.
  • A Sigfox message takes 6 seconds to send (for RC1 devices).
  • Therefore, you can send 36/6 = 6 messages / hour, which makes 24x6 = 144 messages a day. We keep 4 messages for protocol use, which allows for 140 messages per day for your device.

NB: This calculation is just an example of what is done in EMEA region (Europe, Middle east, Africa). Depending on the location, limitations can be very different.

Emphasis added. Source: Sigfox

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