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Are you ready for the 3G Sunset?

Learn what the end of 3G mobile networks means for installers

It's time to start thinking about transitioning your customers from their 3G technology to either 4G or 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology. If you have customers with intrusion alarm systems, fire alarm systems and life safety systems that still use 3G technology, the sunset is on the horizon. All 3G cellular network devices will be affected by the 4G migration, including alarm control panels, fire GSM radios and communicators and Alarm communication equipment.

Once the migration is complete, products that use the outdated technology may experience issues as they will be unable to communicate with the monitoring centre once the network providers shut down their 3G networks. This may compromise the devices' ability to protect or call for help in an emergency.

What is the 3G sunset?

The phrase “3G sunset” is used by mobile network operators and carriers in reference to the switch from 3G technology to 4G and 5G network technology. In layman's terms, the cellular infrastructure required to operate 3G communication devices is shutting down.

Carriers will stop supporting the devices that are using a 3G network once the transition is completed. This means those devices and products will no longer work properly and leave them open to serious defects. This transition affects products within the Intrusion, fire and communication categories.

So why are the networks making the change? As wireless technologies have advanced to 4G LTE and 5G, there is a need to turn off slower and older networks like 2G and 3G to expand their capacity.

What is 4G and how is it better?

4G succeeds 3G as the fourth generation of cellular network technology. You may hear the term 4G LTE, the LTE generally applies to the idea of improving wireless speeds to meet growing demand. The 4G hierarchy of speed is; True 4G, 4G LTE and lastly, 4G.

The benefits of newer 4G products and devices include:

  • Faster communication
  • Utilises frequency bands suited to penetrating walls and building, for optimal connectivity
  • Longer lifespan
  • Improved, real-time connectivity to apps used to control alarm systems

When will the 3G sunset take effect?

The timeline depends upon the carrier as they have all established different deadlines. Some 3G blackouts have since been delayed, but as of July 2021, EE and BT, two of the UK's major networks have indicated they will phase out 3G over the next two years in order to free up airwaves and bring 5G to the entire country by 2028.

The planned sunset dates from the three major carriers are:

  • BT – 2 years
  • EE – 2 years
  • Vodafone – 3 years

It’s important to note, however, that two of these carriers have already stopped accepting new activations for 3G devices. So, it’s only a matter of time before you will need to make sure your customers’ systems are compatible with 4G networks.

What does the 3G sunset means for installers?

To avoid device interruptions and to keep your customers' businesses protected, it is better to start the process of upgrading them sooner rather than later. Alarm and life safety system installers should consider which of their clients are using the soon to be outdated devices that operate on a 3G network. They will need to be upgraded as they will no longer be able to communicate with the monitoring centre. Upgrading the devices before the deadline will help for an easier transition for you and your customers.

How to prepare for the transition

There are a few things you can start doing now in preparation for the 3G sunset:

  1. Compile a list of customers who have existing products or devices using 3G technology.
  2. Proactively reaching out to customers to explain why they need to upgrade to 4G.
  3. As you are working out in the field on other installs, proactively check your customers’ alarm systems for any possible compatibility issues, so you can upgrade their systems now.
  4. For any new installs, use products and devices with the newer 4G technology. Once the sunset is complete, older 3G devices will no longer work or may not function properly.

Those are some initial steps you can take to help make sure your customers have an easy transition to 4G or 5G technology. By ensuring they have the right equipment when it comes to their fire alarm system, intrusion alarm system and life safety system, you can prevent the possibility of interruption to the devices that keep your customers protected.

As the 3G sunset can affect business or corporate clients as well as residential customers, it is important to consider both.

Whether you need alarm system products for your residential customers or business clients, our team of experts can help you transition 3G to 4G technology on all your projects. If you need further assistance finding the right products through the transition, contact us today.