2G networks will be soon a thing of the past, as will the GSM/GPRS modems based on it. In the past few years, 2G modems such as the SIM800 and SIM900 from SIMcom have been popular in embedded systems, particularly hobby projects. As the telecom sector moves forward, 4G has pretty much become the norm. Embedded engineers can no longer design in 2G technology in this time of fast data rates and the wake of recent developments such as IoT and cloud computing.
The most significant contribution of 2G was making wireless communication digital. Fortunately, things soon moved beyond voice calls to SMS, MMS and all that ubiquitous wireless digital data (GSM & CDMA) — at max speed of 1 Mbps. 3G was a data speed booster that allowed smartphone technology to make its way. In the past ten years, 4G has emerged as an entirely different communication technology, providing high data speed (100 Mbps – 1Gbps) with high security. 4G networks are the backbone for real-time streaming, cloud computing, gaming, and IP telephony on smartphones. And, 5G is on its way.
With the emergence of IoT, it is now becoming essential for embedded engineers to design products that are either IoT devices or can be integrated into the Internet. Modern embedded devices will not only need to be equipped with sensors and actuators, but they will also need to be real-time communicating machines. 5G is already under development and promises to be the wireless communication network for billions of IoT devices. The future of embedded systems will be shaped by 5G networks, IoT, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.
Now is the time to upgrade your embedded projects to 3G and 4G modems. With 3G and 4G modems, embedded devices can be designed to communicate (i.e., sending sensor data or receiving commands for actuator) over the internet rather than using SMS messages. Embedded devices can be designed as IoT devices that may be communicating and syncing with each other or with a server at high speeds in real-time. Most of the 3G and 4G modems available at present are backward compatible to 2G networks, so it will be still possible to communicate through SMS messages. Another good reason to move on to 3G and 4G modems is that 2G networks may be soon out of order in many countries. In that case, moving on will be compulsory and not an option.
Embedded systems engineers can replace 2G modems such as the SIM800 and SIM900 with compatible 3G/4G modems having the same footprints. These include the LE866, UE866, and GE866. In that case, one does not need to redesign software or the PCB layout of an existing design.
Alternatively, engineers can choose to redesign their devices to be operational with new 3G or 4G LTE modules. The 3G modules, such as the SIM5320 and SIM5360, come with on-chip GNSS (GPS) and support for many internet protocols. These modules also have USB drivers for several desktop and mobile operating systems. For high-speed communication (if required on an embedded device), LTE modules such as the SIM7100, SIM7500, SIM7600 from SIMcom, WP7702 from Sierra Wireless, EG-12, EC-21, EC-25, EG-91 from Quectel, or others can be used. There are many 4G IoT and 3G IoT modules with or without GNSS from multiple manufacturers that can be used to upgrade, redesign, or design embedded devices. For any new designs, surely 3G IoT or 4G IoT modems should be the only choice.
In summary, it’s time to switch to 3G/4G IoT modems in your embedded projects because:
- 2G networks may be out of order in your country.
- It will be easier to communicate data over the internet rather than through SMS messages.
- New embedded devices will need to be primarily (IoT) things.
- The devices may anytime need to be connected to a cloud computing server or IoT node for scalability and future upgrades.
- IoT and cloud computing offer high-speed real-time data communication and data logging with high security.
- The future of embedded devices lies in IoT, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.