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The GSM Network Shutdown in Australia – Implications to Industrial Users

It has been well communicated that cellular network providers in Australia and around the globe are preparing to shut down their 2G/GSM/GPRS network services, and it's safe to say that the topic should now be top-of-mind for Industrial users. 

About the shutdown.

In a need to increase service performance to their customers, Telco's are commencing a phase of re-farming the old 2G spectrum to make way for newer technologies offering higher reliability, speed and coverage. The decision to cease the services has been largely driven by the adoption of newer, more efficient and higher bandwidth technologies such as 4G/LTE.

Whilst for some Industrial customers, the closure of the GSM network may be nothing more than an inconvenience, but for others it can have significant ramifications, particularly when the 2G service is being relied upon for safety related applications such as SMS alarming of out-of-condition monitoring.

In Australia the dominating telco providers, Telstra and Optus, have stated their intentions to shut down their 2G Networks within the next 12 months. Telstra on 1 December 2016, and Optus on 1 April 2017. Vodafone have not yet stated their intention, however it is largely agreed that they will at some stage follow suit as the as the older 2G infrastructure gets more costly to maintain and support.

So what does this mean for Industrial networks?

In the Industrial M2M space, many applications currently still utilise 2G networks for a range of telemetry, alarming, message paging, SMS, remote diagnostic and SCADA applications. With the imminent shutdown of the 2G network, it is important that Industrial M2M customers put thought into their migration plans, to ensure that the continuity of M2M services are not affected.

If cellular communications are being used in Industrial M2M applications, it is important you:

1- Determine whether your application is operating on the 2G/GSM network
2- Ensure you have a migration path to either 3G or LTE

What does the application currently operate on?

In some cases, customers may not be aware of the underlying cellular technology that their M2M application uses. In fact, a number of industrial devices such as data-loggers, RTU’s and PLC’s will have embedded GSM and/or GPRS functionality. Once the 2G network is switched off, these functionalities will cease to operate.

Similarly, there are a number of ways a GSM modem may be integrated into a particular application and it is important to understand the individual implementation. For example, one application may use a GSM modem as a simple SMS gateway, whereas another may be using CSD (Circuit Switched Data) in a dial-up configuration and yet another may be using “always on” IP data over the GPRS data service. An understanding of the way the M2M application is implemented is crucial to determining how to best migrate the solution to 3G or LTE.

Whilst the below list is by no means exhaustive, the following provides a good overview of the typical industrial applications where 2G M2M cellular communications are utilised. Examples of Industrial Applications using 2G/LTE Communications.

 - SCADA and Telemetry
 - Remote access and configuration
 - Alarm Monitoring
 - Condition Monitoring Systems
 - Data-Logging
 - Building Management Systems
 - RTU (Remote Telemetry Units)
 - Energy Monitoring
 - Pumping Stations 
 - Tank Level Monitoring
 - Industrial Alarm Paging Systems (SMS Alarming)
 - Energy Monitoring
 -  PLC remote communications / diagnostics
 - Utilities remote infrastructure
 - Road and Traffic monitoring systems
 - Cathodic Protection Systems
 - Flood Monitoring Systems
 - Geotechnical monitoring
 - Weather Stations / Environmental Monitoring


How to avoid the network shutting down?

If Industrial M2M applications that are currently running on 2G/GSM/GPRS network services need to remain operational, a planned migration to 3G or 4G/LTE services will be essential. As mentioned above, the count-down to 2G closure in Australia has begun, and with less than 12 months left prompt action is crucial.

In M2M and smart metering applications where there are low bandwidth requirements, a simple hardware upgrade may lead to a cost effective outcome. Alternatively, the 2G shutdown may be an opportunity to re-think an entire Industrial network design, to ensure security and reliability for years into the future.

Either way, Madison Technologies is a leader in cellular communications solutions for Industrial applications. We have a team of industry professionals available who are happy to discuss your application, assess your requirements and assist in determining the simplest and most cost effectively way to migrate your existing 2G/GSM application to 3G or 4G/LTE.

To discuss your cellular M2M requirements, please feel free to contact one of our team of specialists on 1800 78 88 89.

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