It’s been talked about for years, yet it is still weighs heavily on the minds of many people. We are talking about the sunset of 2G. But what has changed today is T-Mobile and what it is doing to help its 2G M2M customers make a more seamless transition to 4G/LTE.

For the past several years we’ve talking about 4G/LTE—and we’re even talking about 5G now—but 2G is still an important part of the M2M world.

What’s more, the reality is that 2G has a shelf life, but it’s set to expire whenever the various carriers pull the plug on their 2G networks. It’s already happening, as carriers retire their towers, they’re slowly chipping away at the supporting 2G infrastructure. As a result, companies with 2G devices have had to develop a plan of action to make the transition by upgrading to 3G or 4G-compatible hardware.

Lucky for T-Mobile customers, the “uncarrier” really wants to help. The company has launched 2G-M2M, a modified version of its 2G network that will deliver an M2M-specific GSM data service through the year 2020.

What’s great about this is T-Mobile is saying the network will work with existing 2G radios, while simultaneously preserving bandwidth for 4G/LTE devices.

It’s a win-win, allowing for continued growth of T-Mobile’s 4G/LTE network and maintaining 2G service for M2M customers. The 2G-M2M program is buying time for T-Mobile M2M customers that need it.

However, it must be noted that time is not the only issue when it comes to the 2G sunset. The cost of hardware is a huge barrier for many companies that are facing this migration. The good news here is that T-Mobile wants to help in this arena, too. For instance, it’s helping M2M customers get from legacy 2G to next-gen LTE through a financing program.

Mike Sievert, T-Mobile USA’s COO, says in addition to operating the 2G-M2M network through the end of 2020, T-Mobile is offering long-term M2M device financing with as little as zero down.

Even though the “writing’s on the wall” for 2G, so to speak, T-Mobile is taking a customer-centric approach to this phasing-out period. It’s allowing 2G customers to keep doing business on 2G while strategically planning for their migration in a way that works best for them.

In other words, T-Mobile is basically saying:

“We know our M2M customers need time to migrate and we’re not going to do what other carriers have done by cutting them off at the knees.”

This comes on the heels of T-Mobile’s prior announcement that its nationwide LTE network is CAT-1 ready, which is just another example of how the carrier is catering to its current and future M2M and IoT customers.

And now that we’re up to speed on T-Mobile, where do some of the other carriers stand on 2G? Verizon’s timeline is pretty close to T-Mobile’s timeline. It plans to sunset its 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021. Meanwhile, AT&T is being relatively aggressive about its 2G sunset.

It announced plans back in August 2012 that it will sunset its 2G network by approximately Jan. 1, 2017. This will allow AT&T to free up much-needed spectrum for its advanced wireless networks. The goal of course is to give AT&T customers a better all-around experience by offering greater capacity.

Ultimately, shutting down 2G and forcing a migration to 4G will even give M2M customers a better experience. However, in the short term, it’s not a better experience; it’s just inconvenience and added costs.

Perhaps T-Mobile is making the right moves to earn its reputation as an “uncarrier.” It wants to differentiate itself from the competition and it wants to prove to the M2M crowd that it has their back. In this carrier world it’s good to see one carrier differentiate itself, and trying to help 2G M2M customers in the short term with the 2G-M2M network, while also helping customers in the long-term by developing its CAT-1 4G LTE network.

Perhaps it’s time to hear what carrier customers think of this ongoing debate and the process of migrating from 2G. Feel free to tell us about your experience.

If there is one thing for sure T-Mobile is certainly getting a lot of attention in IoT. And frankly it’s about time that a carrier shakes up this space.

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