T-Mobile targets IoT users on AT&T's 2G network ahead of shutdown

T-Mobile is offering free SIM cards and service to users of IoT services on AT&T’s 2G network, which is scheduled to be shut down by the end of the year.

AT&T continues to move forward with plans to shutter its 2G network by 2017 and refarm that spectrum for more advanced wireless services. T-Mobile suggested this morning that could leave “millions of IoT customers stranded without wireless connectivity or facing costly upgrades.”

So the nation’s third-largest operator said it will give free 2G service of up to 50 MB per device through the end of the year as well as free SIM cards to users who need them to switch carriers.

“The un-carrier has pledged to continue supporting its nationwide 2G network through 2020, thanks to our new spectrum-efficient 2G GSM optimization,” T-Mobile said in an announcement. “By turning the amount of spectrum to the needs of 2G M2M connections, we allow older GSM devices to work alongside more advanced LTE devices on America’s most advanced network.”

AT&T’s decision to kill 2G service this year was initially disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2012, and several months ago CFO John Stephens confirmed the carrier’s plan was on track but warned that the transition would not be completely painless.

“We expect to continue to see manageable pressure from subscribers choosing not to make this migration” to newer networks, he said.

AT&T has said sunsetting its 2G network will allow it to use its spectrum more efficiently as data consumption continues to soar and as IoT usage ramps up.

“Since we launched our 2G networks, new technologies such as smart phones, social media, and wirelessly connected machines send large amounts of data across our networks,” the carrier said on its web page explaining the transition. “In order to meet this demand, we need to allocate our spectrum as efficiently as possible. Internet of Things (IoT) customers will be able to significantly improve their applications and solutions (such as video cameras for real-time streaming/records for alarm solutions, driver dash cameras for fleet trucks, and so on). The higher speeds of the upgraded network will allow them to better serve their customers and employees. These enhancements would not be possible on the 2G network.”

T-Mobile said one reason it continues to support its 2G network is the cost of migrating customers to newer technologies. Replacing older devices with LTE modules can cost $50 to $200, the operator said, as well as $300 per truck roll.

AT&T has programs in place “to promote adoption of newer 3G and 4G LTE technologies,” but customers are ultimately responsible for planning hardware upgrades ahead of network shutdowns.

For more:
- see this T-Mobile announcement
- read this AT&T FAQ page

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