Telematics + Transportation: How to Make Sure You are Ready for the 3G to 4G transition of your telematics devices?

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Cellular providers began sunsetting their 3G networks in favor of 4G LTE networks in February 2022. This means that communication devices using 3G will not work, so fleets using the legacy network will need to upgrade their devices. Upgrading to 4G LTE services allows for higher bandwidth and data speeds, wider coverage range, improved network reliability, etc.

Most major carriers will shut down their 3G networks by the end of 2022. Some cellular providers are making the switch sooner than others:

  • AT&T had its 3G network sunset in February of 2022
  • Verizon 3G sunset for commercial and government fleet customers will come at the end of 2022
  • Sprint 2G/3G CDMA network shutdown date: April 1, 2022 (formerly January 1, 2022)
  • Sprint 4G LTE network sunset date: June 30, 2022
  • T-Mobile 3G network shutdown date: April 1, 2022 (formerly October 1, 2021)
  • T-Mobile 2G network shutdown date: January 1, 2023

According to Transport Dive, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of fleets operating on 3G devices still need to transition to 4G before the 3G sunset, or their business will get left behind. The transition has skyrocketed the demand for 4G LTE Telematics devices. Due to the ongoing global semiconductor shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global demand for critical components has exceeded the available supply—meaning some companies may have to wait to transition if they did not get their order in on time. 

Many cellular providers will no longer accept new 3G subscriptions and won’t reactivate legacy devices once their subscription ends. 

Why is 3G Being Shuttered?

The reason that 3G networks are being shuttered is to make room for new 5G networks. Transitioning to a more advanced network provides greater capabilities for consumers. New devices and networks are more reliable and secure, which is important for public safety and 9-1-1 technologies. The benefits of fleets that upgrade from 3G to 4G LTE include extended wireless network coverage, higher bandwidth and data speeds, and low latency. 

According to CTIA, “the promise of our 5G future depends in part on the wireless industry using their spectrum assets most effectively so consumers can experience the most robust speeds and capacity. To achieve increased efficiency from their limited spectrum assets, wireless providers “refarm” their spectrum or repurpose it from one generation of wireless technologies to newer, more efficient generations of wireless. Today, that work is happening as providers transition spectrum used for 2G and 3G networks to better serve consumers through much more powerful 4G and 5G networks—5G is expected to be 23x more spectrally efficient and up to 156,000x faster than 2G. In preparation for 5G, all nationwide providers have announced plans to sunset 2G and 3G networks by the end of 2022. The evolution away from 2G and 3G is critical to bring even more 4G and 5G coverage—and faster speeds to power advanced applications—to more Americans.”

History of the Cellular Networks

The first commercial cellular network, the 1G network, was launched in Japan by NTT in 1979. It covered the city of Tokyo upon introduction, but five years later covered all of Japan. Ameritech introduced the first 1G network in the US in 1983. The download speed was 2.4 kbps. 2G networks were first introduced in the US in 1992. The network speed was increased to .2Mbps, and sound quality improved. 

Third-generation wireless technology (3G) rolled out in 2001, offering various services from music downloads to mobile GPS, facilitating the smartphone’s dawn. There are four providers of 3G networks in the US: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. 3G networks supported download speeds of 6Mbps. Apple released the iPhone 3G in 2008, selling over one million units the weekend the phone was released. 

Verizon launched its 4G LTE network on December 5, 2010. It was the world’s first large-scale 4G LTE network covering 38 major metropolitan areas. 4G is much faster than 3G, allowing people to download games or stream TV shows without buffering and lags. Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy are dominant 4G market players. Because smartphones are so prevalent, and more people use the 4G network, the network is reaching capacity. 

5G rolled out in April 2019 in the US. At the end of 2020, there were 15.8 million 5G users in the US. This number is expected to increase to 41.3 million users in 2021. On a global level, by the end of 2022, 5G subscribers are expected to reach 1.3 billion. 

Transitioning to 4G 

Now is the time to transition to 4G if you haven’t already. The questions you need to ask your telematics and network provider include:

  • What hardware do I need to replace, and when? Do I need to replace any software, and if so, what?
  • What are the costs? 
  • What is the timeline for the upgrade?
  • Do I need to schedule an appointment with my telematics vendor and network provider?
  • What impact will this transition have on my business?
  • To replace telematics devices, does my vendor need access to each vehicle?
  • Where do I begin?

HCSS 4G Telematics & Your Fleet

With HCSS Telematics, data is collected from a vehicle like GPS information, total run time, speeding, harsh braking and turning, and other diagnostics, giving fleet managers visibility into their operations. HCSS 4G Telematics devices create precise geofences to easily track entry and exit times. The devices also help protect drivers with vehicle health and driver performance information.

HCSS Telematics is a powerful tool, but the real magic happens when it integrates with other HCSS products, allowing companies to run their entire business from shop to dispatch to job and fuel management with no data entry time. Field mechanics can pair HCSS Telematics with HCSS Equipment360 to easily view meter events that drive the preventative maintenance schedule in real-time. 

Supervisors get more accurate hour reporting and a better representation of equipment utilization by pairing HCSS Telematics with HCSS HeavyJob. This gives them the ability to populate their timecards with engine runtime hours. Integrate HCSS Telematics with HCSS Dispatcher to help dispatchers make better scheduling decisions by seeing where equipment has been scheduled and in the field. It allows contractors to confirm schedules and handle equipment exceptions easier. HCSS Telematics integrated with your software suite enables you to run the entire business from shop to dispatching to job and fuel management with no data entry time.

Not only can HCSS Telematics integrate with other HCSS software, but Telematics makes your GPS data more accessible by allowing businesses to integrate Caterpillar, John Deere, Volvo, and Komatsu original equipment manufacturer (OEM) GPS data. HCSS Telematics integrates with more OEM GPS systems than its competitors, giving companies over 13 OEM GPS options to choose from so businesses don’t have to purchase new equipment.

HCSS, a leading provider of innovative software that helps heavy civil businesses streamline their operations, is assisting fleets in getting ready for the 3G to 4G transition in February 2022. Next month, cellular networks are sunsetting their 3G services, which means communication devices using 3G will not work, so fleets using the legacy network will need to upgrade. HCSS Telematics allows for higher bandwidth and data speeds, a more comprehensive coverage range, and improved network reliability.

Now is the right time to start planning to switch to 4G LTE technology. To start, make sure you’re considering the following, and ask your provider for more details where needed:

  • What hardware do I need to replace?
  • What are the costs? 
  • Do I have the budget to address the upgrade?
  • Who within my organization will I put in charge of the upgrade?
  • Am I happy with my current telematics provider, or is this the time to look into new solutions?
  • Do I have to take time off to install any new hardware?
  • What is my timeline for device replacement, and how can I ensure it is complete by 2022?
  • How will the transition impact the stability of my business?

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