How will the 3G Network Shutdown Impact IoT Ecosystems in Australia?

Australia is all set to undergo a colossal change as three major players – Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone – prepare for a 3G network shutdown after a couple of decades. The phenomenon, known as “3G Sunset”, is set to take place between December 2023 and September 2024, following which telcos have to repurpose the radio frequencies to support newer technologies.

Is 3G still available in Australia?

The 3G shutdown (Australia) is a huge development for the Australian telecommunications industry that has witnessed the use of 3G technology for a long time. 4G has been the norm for some years, while 5G is making inroads, but many individuals and organizations still use 3G-only devices. The shutdown of Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone’s 3G networks will render some of these devices useless, leading to concerns around consumer choice and potential environmental impact. As of now, 3G networks are still available, but the phasing out is set to start soon, so there could be network disruptions.

Will IoT devices work after the 3G shutdown?

With the imminent 3G network shutdown, businesses with devices that operate on IoT (Internet of Things) platforms could face hurdles. But the good news is that transitioning to other available technologies, like 4G, 5G and 0G can offer a variety of benefits, including improved capabilities, lower costs, and better device management.

So what happens after the 3G networks are completely shut down? The answer is simple – older IoT devices might become inoperable. So, businesses that use IoT devices have to invest in updated hardware and new connectivity solutions. It is estimated that more than 50% of all IoT devices that presently rely on cellular to transmit data and connect to the internet will be affected by the 3G sunset.

3G/4G capable devices would still be able to communicate, but that will be lost if they go outside the area of 4G coverage, due to the lack of 3G backup. Despite this, many companies have delayed upgrading their IoT devices due to the complexity of updating numerous devices and their underlying management architecture. The cost of replacing these devices can be exorbitant, depending upon your businesses, and the transition can be huge challenge for companies that rely on IoT devices. Moreover, there are security concerns related to emerging technologies.

What to do after the 3G network shutdown?

The 3G sunset does pose challenges, but there are several connectivity options for IoT devices and projects that need to be upgraded or replaced. If the IoT devices are connected to the 3G network, it is imperative to be prepared for the 3G network shutdown. The first step is to determine which of your devices are still using 3G technologies and what their replacement options are.

Some devices can be replaced with 4G or 5G compatible devices, but for others, you might need to consider alternative options such as switching to a different type of network like 0G – a low-cost, low-power wireless network designed to send or receive small messages between IoT devices. Of course, you might have to upgrade to a new device altogether.

When does 3G end in Australia?

One of the most frequently asked questions is – When will 3G be turned off in Australia? This 3G network shutdown, or 3G sunset, is the process of phasing out the 3G technology in a given region and replacing it with newer technologies like 4G and 5G. Since 2001, 3G has been the predominant technology for wireless mobile telecommunications, but as mobile network operators move towards more advanced networking capabilities, they have committed to phasing out 3G connectivity.

In Australia, the 3G shutdown is set to happen during the following timelines:

  • Vodafone – December 15, 2023.
  • Tesltra – June 30, 2024
  • Optus – September 2024.

The phasing out of 3G technology is a significant milestone in the evolution of mobile communication technology. It will surely cause some hurdles for IoT-based operations, but in the long run, it paves the way for more advanced and effective connectivity options.

What issues have cropped up?

There are presently two barriers to the transition from 3G to 4G or 5G:

  • Lack of awareness about the 3G shutdown – some segments of the Australian market are still in denial or believe the 3G sunset date can be extended.
  • Limited technical resources to support it – companies lack the infrastructure and budget to make the switch.

Different companies are at various stages in their transition programs to 4G. For organizations that haven’t mapped out a strategy yet, it is imperative the get started right away. The best planned and executed migrations can take between 12 to 18 months. These projects often require a re-evaluation of the business and technical aspects of the IoT solution. A redesign of the technical architecture could be needed, along with hardware and equipment replacements in the field.

A major issue for machine-to-machine (M2M) projects, has always been the hidden costs of project planning. For instance, 4G might not work where 3G works, antennas purchased to support 3G may not be compatible with 4G, power, and connector specification could be different.  Another consideration is the lead time on hardware, which can take up to six months if sourced overseas.

The transition has to be as smooth and efficient as possible, so there are minimal disruptions in the business and no negative impact on customers. Work out a clear migration plan, understand the requirements of existing and future devices, and choose the most suitable network technology.

Which sectors are going to be affected?

Industrial and manufacturing industries are going to be massively impacted due to the 3G network shutdown. For example, some of them have windmills that connect to the 3G network. They have to be upgraded, before the network is turned off in their region. Failure to upgrade these devices could lead to lost data and decreased efficiency, as they won’t be able to connect to the internet. There is a global shortage of microchips, which has made it even tougher for IoT-based operations to update devices. The transportation sector will be affected too, as IoT devices used to record driving hours, capture real-time location and collect other data will become inoperable.

Let’s face it – the 3G shutdown (Australia) is inevitable, but it is a great opportunity for businesses to upgrade and boost operations. It is best to capitalize on this incredible opportunity, minimize costs, and make businesses future-proof.

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