You may have already heard that the 3G cellular network is being sunsetted in 2022. What you might not have heard is what that sunset looks like, and how it might impact your fleet.
Unlike the AOBRD sunset, which required that CMVs switch from AOBRDs to ELDs by a specific date, the sunsetting of the 3G network will be more gradual -- and certainly more of a sunset than the “lights-out” situation that we had with AOBRD.
While the gradual sunsetting might sound like it will provide you extra time to switch over your fleet tracking and ELD solutions, in fact the opposite is true: The carriers are likely to slowly allow their 3G networks to degrade in terms of both maintenance and coverage as time goes on.
There’s two primary reasons this will happen. The first is that the carriers are focused on continuing to build out their LTE networks, even as they’re also working on 5G. That leaves little room in their budgets and their time for 3G maintenance -- and why throw good money after bad, after all? Furthermore, there is a finite range of radio frequencies made available to the carriers for network coverage. That range of frequencies has to suffice for both 3G and LTE networks -- so you can have every expectation that as time goes on the carriers will be progressively reassigning more and more spectrum from 3G to LTE.
What does this mean for fleets, in real terms? In the first instance, trucks with 3G devices will find it increasingly difficult as time goes on to find a 3G network with which to connect. Because the carriers will want to minimize massive, sudden disruptions, you can expect this kind of 3G degradation to start in areas with lower population densities. That means that fleet managers might start losing fleet visibility across portions of the American southwest, for example, long before the actual final sunset date -- and that the loss of visibility will continue to increase in area as the carriers continue to switch more of the spectrum over to LTE. Obviously, that’s a bad situation for fleets that rely on monitoring and communicating with their trucks using 3G devices.
There is an upside, though. Because LTE is superior to 3G in terms of being both faster and having more capacity, fleets that have upgraded to appropriate LTE devices will potentially be able to take advantage of that superiority. How? By fielding devices that are capable of the collection and reporting of far more telemetric data than was capable with older 3G devices. For example, instead of telemetrics that provide little more than dots on a map, newer devices connecting via LTE will be able to send far more data back to the fleet manager in real-time. Reefer data, TPMS data, all of the varied engine data, PTO data, driver behaviors, and more: It’s all on the table for fleets that have upgraded to newer LTE devices.
The imbalance between 3G and LTE capabilities, and the declining reach of 3G coverage, means that fleets need to be ahead of the 3G sunset long before 2022. To help fleet managers be proactive, we’re offering discounted upgrades on most 3G devices. It’s a great way to future-proof your fleet -- and as we’ve pointed out, NOT doing it will likely have increasingly detrimental impacts on your fleet as time goes on. (And hey, our discounted upgrade program won’t last forever, either!)
It’s easy to find out if you qualify for the discounted 3G upgrade program. Just contact us via our 3G upgrade page, and we’ll be in touch to talk it all over with you.
Stay healthy, stay profitable, and keep on truckin’!