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Australia And A Look At The Future Of 2G


jimcarter

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I've just returned from a trip to Sydney where we are setting up WebWay Australia. The market for Alarm Transmission is reportedly in the region of a million monitored systems, however unlike the UK they are not driven by Insurance nor strict adherence to standards compliance. There is the Australian & New Zealand AS2201 standard, their equivalent to EN50136 (in some respects). At present there is no concept of a confirmed event and Police response is on request of the Keyholder or Guarding company on a single activation.

What is impressive in Australia is the radio coverage. 4G is prevalent and there is a national program of Broadband roll out. The aggressive spread of 4G services means that 3G has almost been bypassed. 4G has greater reach and building penetration and is suited to the far and remote areas that are common place in Australia. I'm told you can get 4G up the top of a mountain in the middle of the desert!

For WebWayOne, the dual technology cells are perfect for the deployment of our Mk6 platforms enabled for 3G and intelligent roaming. If you want to "play" in the Australian market, then you need 3G as a minimum, otherwise its not worth bothering. This really is a peak into the future for our market. The network operators are now actively "farming" data from 2G services to enhance the consumer 3G and 4G experience and this is already having an impact on ATS services in certain regions.

The Operators are calling this the "Sunset period" of 2G services with 2020 a stake in the ground where 2G will no longer be offered on new contracts.

The decision we took 12 months ago to standardise on a 3G platform was definitely a "good call". Changing a GSM module is a significant hardware deviation. The upshot is, if we had stuck with a 2G module we would have been faced with a re-submission of the product for testing and 3rd party certification. That's a severe investment in time and cost avoided.

Our industry relies heavily on mobile technology and there will need to be a cultural change before long, particularly in view of the rapid growth of data services and the demands of consumers. Our industry is conditioned to product lifetimes of 10 to 15 years, but this is a dynasty in mobile technology terms. At WebWayOne we are now at a Mk6 release, with at least 4 of these determined by a change in the GSM module, all having been 2G up until the release of the Mk6. We have managed to maintain costs over these transitions, no small feat when you compare this to the consumer world.

Consider back in 2005 when we first began to roll out IP/GPRS systems. The Nokia 9300 was released, you'll no doubt recall it was a clam shell design with full qwerty keyboard. It was the same year the Motorola RAZR was launched. It was another two years before the iPhone first made an appearance. We swop, change, upgrade our mobiles every few years, but we expect our signalling devices to last 5 or 6 times that length of time.

We are actively looking at the next generation of modules now, with 4G likely to be available in Q1 next year, but with the price of 4G modules being high, I don't expect these to be viable for our market for some time. But never say never. 3G is, we are told, not going to "die" for the foreseeable future, but 2G certainly does have a life expectancy and it is not that far away.

We have upgrade programs are in progress with a 3G plug-on in the pipeline for Mk5 boards and full board updates for roughly the same cost as an HG antenna. By the way, the data re-farming issues cannot be solved with an alternate antenna.

So my advice is to be prepared. Start reviewing your 2G deployments soon, and make sure they have an upgrade path. Think seriously about the deployment of any new 2G devices, look for future proofing your signalling now. The alternative could well be a swop out of the 2G device in around 5 years time, if not sooner. Attached is an article on the subject of 2G farming, it's worth a read.

Sunset for GPRS final.pdf

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