The Dutch mobile arm of T-Mobile is reported to prepare the phasing out of its GSM (2G) network by 2020, with the other Dutch mobile operators doing the same probably along the same timeframe. A web page incites T-Mobile Nederland customers to migrate to other technology phones to keep services and enhance coverage. This is a worldwide movement, that started with AT&T who has shut down its US 2G network at the end of last year.
By March 2018, it is mandatory for any car sold in the EU to be equipped with an eCall in band modem (that should be working on 2G or 3G cellular networks) for emergency call in case of accident. However a large part of eCall cellular modules for sale to OEMs are GSM (2G) only. As OEMs are very cost sensitive and 2G modems are less expensive than 2G /3G models, a large part of cars are and will be 2G only eCall capable.
This means that even if lawfully equipped with mandatory 2G eCall modems, new owners would not be able to enjoy eCall security beyond 2020 in countries such as the Netherlands, while a car life duration is about 14 years. And I would bet similar 2G decommissioning would happen in many other EU countries.
3G networks may last slightly longer, but I do not expect MNOs to keep costly empty networks operational for long, while traffic is migrating heavily to LTE-4G.
A few years ago, the vision was that there would be basic 4G-LTE network across Europe and MNOs would keep 2G dedicated to Internet of Things (IoT), as there are numerous existing Machine to Machine (MtoM) customer bases difficult to migrate. However, the arrival of IoT specific LTE protocols with low power consumption capabilities and a clear path towards 5G have changed the landscape.
Therefore it is of utmost importance for the automotive ecosystem that they quickly implement eCall over LTE (so called eCall over IMS for which complete specifications are fully available) in order to avoid a dead call with 2G and possibly 3G technologies.
And OEMs should reflect on defining their own long term telecommunication strategies. They should embed their specific requirements and the specificities of their industry , so that OEMs become more independent from MNOs and of their own strategic decisions such as phasing out a said cellular technology. A connected car approach without a resolute independent telecommunication strategy may be lacking in vision from OEMs.
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