The city of Tempe, Arizona, has a long, complicated, and hostile history with Internet service providers. Just last year, Cox Communications filed a lawsuit against the city that alleges it violated federal laws when striking a deal with Google Fiber — but unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time Tempe went to court over Internet-related issues.
Perhaps the city’s biggest court battle began back in 2006, when it spent millions of dollars installing municipal Wi-Fi along its streets. The city didn’t realize it at the time, but this impressive infrastructure was built before the days of smartphones, iPads, and 4G networks. It made a huge investment in a technology that would not be able to connect to the soon-coming next generation of wireless-enabled devices.
As a result, 1,400 purposeless metal boxes are now scattered throughout Tempe and nearby Chandler, Arizona. Once this reality hit, Tempe filed multiple lawsuits against the company that provided this short-lived, high-priced equipment.
Sadly, Tempe’s story is all too common. We’ve seen wireless networks briskly move from analog to digital, and then they have continued to evolve from 2G to 3G and beyond at what seems like breakneck speeds. This is no passing phenomenon.
As long as technology continues to evolve and the world continues to demand more wireless spectrum, network longevity should always be a top concern for businesses of all types.
Who Is Affected by Network Longevity?
Smartphones and tablets aren’t the only devices using the wireless spectrum anymore — the Internet of Things now connects billions upon billions of appliances, machines, and everyday devices to a network of some sort. These devices include (but certainly aren’t limited to) cars, thermostats, parking meters, oil pipelines, and point-of-sale terminals.
If a wireless device was created when 2G was the latest and greatest network, its owner will face an expensive decision in the not-so-distant future.
Remember OnStar? Back in 2008, the vehicle location-tracking company was forced to upgrade its networks from 2G to 4G LTE at a hefty cost. Only half of the company’s 4 million subscribers owned vehicles capable of being upgraded — and those who did faced exorbitant price tags if they wanted to continue receiving the service.
These situations are bad for any organization, but they put especially high pressure on smaller businesses that already run on razor-thin margins.
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Tech
Avoiding this fate comes down to the early stages of technology selection and decision-making. It’s critical that technology creators ask the right questions up front to ensure the longevity of the equipment they install.
Don’t be afraid to ask a connectivity provider for a written network-longevity guarantee. This ensures the network will continue to perform for a guaranteed time frame (five to 10 years is a good starting point for negotiations). A plan should be in place to seamlessly replace obsolete equipment with new technology.
Technology is the backbone of modern business, and all companies need to consider tech turnover to be a necessary operating cost. The price of maintaining and upgrading a working wireless network should be included in any risk-management plan.
The city of Tempe made a costly mistake by investing in the wrong wireless technology at the wrong time. Other cities can avoid similar mistakes by performing due diligence in researching technology trends before making large investments in infrastructure.
While companies such as AT&T and Verizon work tirelessly on smart networks to create smart cities capable of supporting smart cars, smartphones, and smart appliances, smart people should select network equipment capable of providing high-speed wireless connections for generations to come.