Free IoT data plans offered by T-Mobile

As AT&T shuts down its older 2G network, T-Mobile is offering free 2G data kits, plus the needed SIM cards

In an attempt to claw more Internet of Things (IoT) data market share, mobile network operator T-Mobile, in the U.S., is offering 50 MB of free 2G data service, per machine to machine (M2M) device, per month until the end of this year.

The pitch is aimed at current AT&T 2G GSM customers who will be without service when AT&T shuts down its IoT-popular 2G network at the end of the year.

+ Also on Network World: 2016 technology industry graveyard +

Many M2M devices still use 2G-specific radios rather than faster networks, and even some new, low-cost modems support only 2G. Hobbyist, IoT development prototyping and older modems are particularly prone.

Migration plans are available from manufacturers for some of those aging 2G modems to be upgraded to the faster HSPA and LTE networks, among other standards, but often it’s simpler and cheaper just to leave the modem in place. Much M2M data traffic doesn’t require any more bandwidth than 2G provides, and embedded modems can be awkward and expensive to service in the field. They can be remotely located, requiring a truck roll, among other issues.

That’s why it’s simpler to just to swap out a SIM card if you can. And if the radio’s modem isn’t locked to a specific carrier, some are doing that.

Those who remain on AT&T’s 2G networks as the end of the year gets closer will be left with non-working modems when AT&T’s closedown takes place.

“We are shutting down our 2G network by the end of 2016,” AT&T says on its website. “AT&T wireless customers using this network will need to upgrade their devices, as they will be unable to make or receive calls, including emergency calls, send or receive text messages, or use data services after 12/31/2016.”

Turning off GSM 2G to make room for new technologies

Globally, GSM 2G is being switched off to free up capacity for newer technologies. Vodafone in New Zealand, for example, said in March that it would soon set a date for turning off its 2G voice services.

T-Mobile says it isn’t worried about making space for other, newer radio technologies because it uses “new spectrum-efficient 2G GSM optimization.” It says it tunes the 2G M2M connection’s spectrum, thus letting older GSM equipment “work alongside more advanced LTE devices.”

Of the free 2G offer, “free SIM’s are provided as well to enable a smooth transition to T-Mobile,” the company says in a press release.

T-Mobile would, of course, rather you buy a subscription for higher-speed LTE for your IoT. Telit, an IoT modem maker earlier this month released LTE CAT-1 and CAT-4 IoT modules, which it says in a recent media release “are available to deploy on T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G LTE network.” The modules can drop in as LTE replacements for existing Telit earlier-technology, too.

Sequans Communications also provides a newly launched T-Mobile-certified CAT-1 2G to LTE transition solution.

But if 4G is not in your budget, or you don’t need the speeds LTE provides, T-Mobile says it will support 2G nationally until 2020 and will give “AT&T’s stranded IoT customers a better path forward.”

T-Mobile provides a form on its website for catching the attention of a salesperson.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in