5 Takeaways from the “Executing the 4G Transition” MAMA Webinar

On March 10, industry insiders joined together for MAMA’s webinar “Executing the 4G Transition,” hosted by MAMA’s President Daniel Oppenheim, the CEO of Affiliated Monitoring, and featuring MAMA Board Members Rob Flippo, the CEO of MobileHelp, and Jason Anderson the CEO of VRI

MAMA opened attendance to the broader industry and not just MAMA members due to the importance and timeliness of the topic and the industry’s desire to support each other on the issues surrounding the 3G to 4G transition. 

Check out a short clip from the webinar above. 

Here are our 5 top takeaways from the conversation:

1. February 2022 is less than a year away

About 11 months, to be exact...

Throughout the webinar, the overall message was that planning is the fundamental key to successfully navigating through the rapidly approaching transition. From forecasting to supply chain to customer churn – there’s a lot to consider as you look towards the rest of the year. 

One thing to keep top of mind while you’re planning is, if this transition is anything like what happened with 2G to 3G, there won’t just be a flip of a 3G switch that turns everything off. Degradation of service will methodically roll out over the next 11 months over territories and zip codes. 

“We’re one of the few companies that lived through the 2G to 3G migration in the PERS industry. It’s very likely that the same scenario will occur where bandwidth needs to be reallocated, particularly in high-density areas.

The carriers need to take bandwidth and move it from 3G to 4G. They will essentially shut down 3G in regional pockets. So you’ll get a notification from the carrier that says, ‘30 days from now, we’re shutting down the 3G capability in the following zip codes.’ And sometimes they don’t give you more than 30 days – we actually had the first notification for 3G in December of 2019...and we fully expect to see that to start ramping up here as we get into 2021,” said Rob Flippo.

2. Don’t plan on it: The sunset deadline is not likely to be extended

While COVID is still top of mind, it makes sense to think since at-home installations have slowed, carriers would want to extend the deadline to accommodate the phase-out. 

But there’s been another COVID-related impact at play that’s pushing the carriers to move faster: an increase in bandwidth demand. 

“One of the many things the pandemic also created was a situation where a ton of people are working from home and remote locations, and there is a need for broadband everywhere. Pushing everybody into their homes and away from their offices, where we have broadband access readily available, actually created a different problem. 

So the carriers are saying, ‘No, we can’t push this because we’ve got this even bigger problem of generally providing broadband across the board,’” said Rob Flippo.  

3. Supply chain issues are real  

PERS Insider has covered pandemic-related supply chain issues with in-depth articles and has spotlighted coverage in mainstream media outlets like the New York Times. 

All of our panelists expressed concern for supply chain issues and offered up advice to deal with a problem that seems almost entirely out of our industry’s control and not likely to be wholly solved in the immediate future: 

“There is not a single manufacturer that we’ve worked with that hasn’t expressed concern. Our forecasts say that there are going to be constraints in the second half of the year, and it looks like it’s going to be a real challenge. 

So I would say a best practice, if you can afford to do it, would be to really think about pulling forward some of that inventory into the first half of the year, even if it’s a little conservative. I don’t think any of us want to go through a scenario where someone wants that new technology, and we don’t have it for them. 

At a minimum, let the companies that you do business with know what your needs are so they can plan because planning and forecasting is everything,” said Jason Anderson.  

4. Don’t forget to recycle! 

It is on each of us to supply our customers with as many options as possible regarding proper device disposal and recycling. We’ve seen some encouraging responses from customers across the board – this is an issue they generally care about and want guidance on doing the right thing.

Here are a few options that Jason Anderson and VRI are providing: 

“It’s our responsibility to try and figure out how to properly address or inform clients around recycling. If they want to ship it back to us, we pay for them to ship it back to us. 

We also provide a really robust list of national companies that do recycling like Staples, Office Depot, Walmart, etc. 

We emphasize that throwing your device in your trash can or putting it in your recycle bin is not the proper way to dispose of it.” 

5. There’s no magic bullet for communicating the transition to your customers 

While we all wish it were as easy a phone call, or one direct mail piece, or a targeted email that would help us easily transition our customers over to 4G technology...

That’s just not the reality. 

Plan for a blitz of messaging to your customers across multiple channels: 

“There’s no one magic bullet. We send out postcards, and we have a website set up that people can go to and put their information and say, ‘I want the new device.” That is tremendously popular...we do IVR (interactive voice response) talking about new technology on behalf of your health plan, we do live phone calls, and then we capture anything coming in anywhere in the business: technical support, customer care, the billing department. So they see 3G flashing on the screen, then we have a team that goes through it,” said Jason Anderson. 

PERS companies cannot overlook the importance of training your team to communicate confidently about the transition. 

“They have to know what 3G to 4G is. They have to be educated. They have to be able to have compelling and effective conversations. We’ve been doing modules every month for almost a year where we educate individuals about 3G and 4G and build on those conversations,” said Anderson.

Bonus: Don’t forget that the landline is (sometimes) still a viable technology option 

While many of us are focused on pushing our customers to new technology during this transition period, Jason Anderson doesn’t want you to forget about another viable option: the landline. 

“Digital landlines are great units. You don’t have to worry about swapping them out. We have revisited this (technology) as we go through this. If it’s appropriate for the grandpa and grandma’s lifestyle, that could be an option too if there are inventory constraints or anything of that nature down the road – it could be a way to still service your clients using that technology.”
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