Part Three: 3GPP/GSMA is NOT Providing a Graceful Evolution Path for Machines

The 3GPP/GSMA folks may claim that their roadmap offers “graceful evolution” for machines, but we do not have to look far into the past to see that this has never been the case, and likely never will be the case.  Let’s look at three categories of issues that run counter to a “graceful evaluation” and destroys the Return-On-Investment (ROI) of low-end machines: Sunsetting Risk, Fragmentation, and Machine Priority.

Sunsetting Risk

Cellular technology advances based on voice and data considerations. Cellular generations are always advancing – 2G to 3G to 4G to 5G. RPMA is not a “G” – “G”s die.  This imposes significant risk of stranding LPWA devices that need 10-20 years of operation for a solid ROI.

There are 30 million 2G endpoints in the US orphaned by sunsetting. All other carriers will follow suit in the next few years. When 100 times the spectral efficiency can be achieved by replacing 2G technology with 4G LTE, the carriers have no choice given the ever-accelerating consumer demand for high-speed data. RPMA, by contrast, guarantees backward compatibility for 20+ years. Cellular technology is perpetually in a state of sunsetting technology, and with 5G technology development being developed today, there is no reason to believe that sunsetting will magically cease in the future.

Click here to download an infographic to see when each cellular G dies in your country.


There are several standards coming out in quick succession, about 6 months apart from each other, relevant to LPWA connectivity: EC-GSM, LTE-M, and NB-IOT, and then 5G IOT is in the initial stages. Which one (or ones) will be supported by the ecosystems? By contrast, there is only one RPMA technology worldwide. Ironically, the standardization bodies are actually contributing to fragmentation as opposed to reducing it. Other points:

  • Even 3GPP themselves do not envision a single 3GPP technology satisfying the full spectrum of LPWA requirements. As stated in “An Overview of 3GPP Enhancements on Machine to Machine Communications” published in IEEE Communications Magazine: “Furthermore, NB-IoT only support limited mobility  procedures.  Thus, NB-IoT targets use cases with reduced mobility and very low data rates (e.g. metering devices) with the possibility of reusing GSM or LTE spectrum, while eMTC can cover applications with higher data rate and mobility requirements (e.g. wearables).” RPMA solves the entire LPWA solution space.
  • Cellular LPWA technology is immature. As stated in “An Overview of 3GPP Enhancements on Machine to Machine Communications” published in IEEE Communications Magazine: “Future evolutions of 3GPP standardization activities related to M2M technologies include system capacity and user throughput improvements, congestion and overload control in connected mode, position location, as well as broadcast/multicast support.”  RPMA has already solved these aspects with proven deployments in the field for many years.

Machine Priority

Licensed spectrum is extremely valuable. Carriers have insisted that LPWA technologies must have provisions to repurpose LPWA spectrum for voice/data needs when required.  What this means to the IOT devices is that the network can go away at any time to service the higher revenue voice/data users.  RPMA only supports LPWA devices so the machines always have the highest priority.

This post is a part of the series Is the cellular standard roadmap (3GPP/GSMA) the answer to Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) Connectivity? Click a link below to learn more, or download our free eBook, How RPMA Works: The Making of RPMA.

If at any time, you would like a more detailed description of RPMA and how it stacks up in the competitive landscape, please take a look at the document How RPMA Works: The Making of RPMA.