Cannibalized 3G Networks and the Future of Cellular Out-Of-Band Management

Verizon is the latest carrier to cannibalize its 3G network to improve its 4G LTE network, which is big news for cellular OOB management users.

With major cellular network carriers in the United States in the thick of a race to provide better, faster and more comprehensive coverage to consumers and businesses alike, some service providers have looked to tear down their older 2G and 3G networks in order to improve available 4G LTE coverage and capacity. The latest to do this is Verizon Wireless, although other carriers will likely take similar steps in the coming months and years. This is big news for cellular out-of-band management, as it means tools like the IM7200 Infrastructure Manager from Opengear will be more robust than ever before in the near future.

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The trend of cannibalizing 3G spectrum
In early December, GigaOM reported that Verizon would be decommissioning some of its 3G PCS bands in favor of using that spectrum to instead bolster its 4G LTE network in select cities. The company has yet to confirm where specifically this change will happen, although thus far it has been noticed in Cleveland and Manhattan. It is unlikely that all 3G coverage from Verizon will disappear in favor of 4G LTE in the near future since the company has committed to supporting the legacy technology until the end of 2019. However, 80 percent of all data handled by Verizon is now via its LTE network, and that number will likely only rise in the coming months and years.

Verizon is not the only carrier making such a move. Late last year, GigaOM reported that AT&T was making similar strides in New York and other major U.S. cities in an effort to bolster LTE connectivity as slower networks become less relevant to end users. The other major carriers have not yet made efforts to cannibalize their older networks, but such moves could be happening soon. For instance, Sprint’s announcement in November of this year that it would be officially discontinuing its WiMAX network in 2015 probably means that the spectrum it used there will soon be diverted for LTE use. T-Mobile, with the newest LTE network in the U.S., has less of a need for new spectrum at the moment thanks to recent dealings with AT&T and MetroPCS, according to CNET, although that may change as bandwidth demand continues to rise.

The nationwide rise of LTE
Network carriers are now being forced to cannibalize their 2G and 3G connections as 4G LTE grows by leaps and bounds. Statistics from September from 4G Americas and research firm Ovum found that roughly one-third of the nearly 400 million mobile connections in North America are via LTE, with 15 million of those coming just during the first six months of 2014. This is up from the GSM Association’s figures from late last year, which found that the U.S. had an LTE penetration rate of around 19 percent at the time.

As demand for LTE services continues to rise, carriers are left with little recourse regarding how they can keep up. The recent spectrum auction from the Federal Communications Commission will probably help some, but it may not be enough. As a result, Verizon and other major carriers have to be a little creative, with the reuse of 3G spectrum for 4G LTE being perhaps the best available option.

How changes in LTE affect cellular out-of-band management
As far as cellular out-of-band management is concerned, the moves undertaken by Verizon, AT&T and others of late to bolster 4G LTE capacity are great. LTE is already the best option out there for cellular out-of-band management and cellular routing in regard to site coverage and available capacity, according to Opengear Senior Sales Engineer Dan Baxter, and these efforts mean 4G will only become even more pervasive and reliable in the coming months and years. Thanks to these moves, solutions like the IM7200 Infrastructure Manager from Opengear can be an even more critical part of business continuity and IT resilience efforts.