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2G/3G Sunset: What this means for wireless product certifications & how you can prepare

Inspire consumer trust in innovation

Inspire consumer trust in innovation

Mobile network operators around the world are phasing out 2G and 3G to make way for the more powerful 4G and 5G networks. Shutdown dates vary across countries, with some no longer accepting 2G and 3G and others still working on decommissioning them. These frequency bands will likely be obsolete by 2024 or 2025, at which point 5G will be fully rolled out and 6G will be the next major update to be implemented.

This shift will have a serious impact on the functionality of devices running on older standards, and will impose new testing and certification requirements on wireless product brands and manufacturers. But with proper research and preparation, you can anticipate these changes and migrate to 4G and 5G as safely as possible.

Will 2G/3G devices stop working?

Yes, devices that rely on 2G/3G connectivity may lose some features or stop working completely. These could include vital technologies such as home security systems; flood monitoring, ambulance GPS, and traffic signal systems; and Internet of Things devices used by the industrial, manufacturing, and trucking sectors.

To remain functional, these devices and systems will need to be reconfigured to switch off 2G and 3G connectivity and updated to become compatible with 4G and 5G networks. This could entail a software and/or hardware update, or a redesign of the product – changes that will likely call for new rounds of testing and certification.

One thing to look out for is the possibility of still having your products certified for 2G and 3G and later discovering that these may not work where you want them to because of limited mobile carrier coverage. This happens in countries where the main mobile networks have shut down 2G and 3G but smaller operators continue to offer it. Regulators will continue to certify products so that these may operate on the remaining networks, but you will need to be mindful of that country’s deadline for fully shutting down 2G and 3G.

Preparing for the next era of connectivity: 4 key steps

To make sure your products are ready for the shift to 4G and 5G, you will need to assess your inventory, determine testing and certification requirements, create a realistic timeline, and stay up to date on regulatory changes that may affect you.

1. Check your inventory

Determine which of your products are affected by the phaseout, and identify what needs to be done to make them compatible with the new standards. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which frequency bands are accepted in the countries where your products are being used/will be used?
  • Will your products need a software update, new internal components (such as a new radio module), or a complete redesign?
  • Is 4G or 5G the best connectivity option for your product and for the countries they operate in, or is something else more suitable? For instance, perhaps low-power, wide-area networks such as NB-IoT and LTE-M are better suited for your device’s functions.

2. Identify new testing and certification requirements

For all of your markets, check what international and country-specific testing and certifications you will need to accomplish to accommodate the updates. If applicable, consult with your local representative or the local mobile network operator to know which bands are still accepted in their countries. Another option is to consider partnering with companies that provide Global Market Access (GMA) services to help you get a better sense of this regulatory landscape.

3. Draft a timeline

Know the specific 2G and 3G shutdown dates of the countries where your products are used. Estimate how much time you will need for migration, testing, and certification. Note that changing your product’s components may take a year and testing may take months, but the overall timeline will ultimately depend on the applicable standards in the countries you operate in or are planning to sell to.

4. Stay informed about regulatory shifts

It may not be easy due to the variations in compliance requirements and the ever-evolving nature of regulations, but it’s important to stay up to date on the changes happening in each of your markets. Monitor not just country-specific updates but also regional trends, as countries will usually be influenced by their neighbors’ approach. Some good sources of information are your local contacts across your markets, news outlets, and websites or newsletters of regulatory bodies and companies that specialize in GMA services.

WiFi 6, 6E, & 7; 6G; cybersecurity & AI: upcoming trends that may affect your wireless products

Here are some regulatory updates you may need to keep an eye on to help future-proof your devices.

Most regulators have permitted WiFi 6 (5925-6425MHz), and several countries have already adopted WiFi 6E (6425-7125MHz). WiFi 7 is on the horizon and could be the next big technological update.

The sixth generation of mobile networks is currently in development, with China looking to introduce 6G mobile applications by 2025 and conduct a commercial rollout by 2023.

  • Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI)

Cybersecurity is receiving increasing attention from regulators as wireless devices, like smartwatches and mobile phones, have become ubiquitous. The European Commission, for instance, is bolstering its cybersecurity measures for wireless devices and products. Devices using AI will also likely be regulated in the near future. AI regulation is still in its early stages, but several countries are already giving it a serious look.

Getting your wireless products certified and future-ready

The regulatory landscape for wireless products can be fragmented and fast-changing. This is why anticipating shifts is crucial to building compliant, competitive devices. Partnering with experts on wireless product certifications can help you manage the process.

At TÜV SÜD, we can help you craft a regulatory strategy to ensure that all testing and certification requirements in your target markets are covered, that delays are minimized, and that the overall process goes as smoothly and efficiently possible.

We have global market access expertise in certifications for 5G and 4G, and our relationships with regulators, certification bodies, and local contacts across the globe help us maintain a strong knowledge base around wireless product certification.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the future of wireless connectivity.

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