When a carrier shuts down a cellular technology, such as 2G CDMA, all users of that technology must migrate to a new generation of cellular technology. Old devices will no longer work.
This is easier for consumers than for businesses with M2M and IoT devices. Human users are generally happy to bear the cost of upgrading their phones every few years, and getting a new one from a retail location or through the mail is simple.
M2M and IoT devices, by contrast, are generally intended to have much longer useful lives than consumer phones. It is a hardship for businesses to have to replace equipment that still works but is technologically obsolete. When older cellular technologies are removed from service, many old radio modules must be replaced entirely. For newer technologies such as 3G GSM, at the very least the SIM card must be changed. Because the radio equipment is often deeply embedded (security panels, etc.) and not mobile, businesses must not only buy new radio modules or SIMs, they must pay for costly “truck rolls” or other labor charges to change devices or SIMs and make other necessary modifications.
Customers deploying M2M and IoT applications need to understand the timing of technology changes so that they can better understand how to optimize the actual useful life of equipment. Planning for changes to avoid major disruption can go a long way to mitigate concerns. For example, putting the cellular radio module on a “plug-in” sled in the devices that can be swapped out easily, would make for faster (i.e., lower overall cost) updates – perhaps even by an inexperienced user who has access to the device.