For the last couple of years, the nationwide rollout of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile network has garnered plenty of attention. Carriers promise a more reliable and wider coverage range, increased data and greater network speeds. But this move to 5G means major wireless network carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are phasing out their 3G cellular networks to create greater network connectivity using 5G technology that has been available for some time now. The Federal Communications Commission has issued an alert warning the public of the 3G phaseout—and time is running out to make the shift to a newer network.
AT&T shut down its 3G network in February, while Sprint followed in March, T-Mobile in July and Verizon in December. Verizon originally scheduled its sunset for 2019, then extended it to 2020 and again to 2022. With the 3G sunset about to cross the horizon, fleet managers in the waste and recycling industry must take swift action and upgrade their technology to avoid losing access to phones, tablets and other telematics devices that use SIM cards to communicate vehicle and driver data.
Avoiding service outages
The transition to 4G or 5G may be rocky at first, but the long-term effects lead to more efficient fleet service. Fleet management services continue to work in areas with weak or spotty cellular service, though data transmission could be delayed until a stronger signal is restored. With patchy or inconsistent network availability, some could be forced to wait long periods of time to access data. An upgrade to a faster network lessens the chance of service outages.
The upgrade from 3G also is worth the time spent negotiating a new contract with your fleet management provider. By sunsetting 3G and switching to 4G LTE, waste and recycling fleets can transfer telematics data at up to 100 megabytes per second, which is several hundred times faster than 3G speeds. Currently, basic in-vehicle telematics services use 4G as the default network given the relatively low data needing to be transmitted (compared with a phone).
Although 4G is expected to last for at least 10 years, 5G is slowly becoming a viable network solution for in-cab cameras and other similar technology. If fleets transition to 5G, they gain data speed that is 5,000 times faster than 3G and much more reliable. That’s plenty of bandwidth for fleet managers to conduct video interactions with their drivers in the field as well as to provide video analytics to analyze safety risks to vehicles. In addition, the 5G standard can reduce latency experienced on previous networks as well as offer high network reliability and better accuracy as far as the positioning of vehicles in the field.
Here are some steps waste and recycling fleet managers can take to prepare for the 3G sunset:
- Take a thorough inventory of your 3G telematics devices. Gain a complete understanding of how many members of your fleet are using 3G phones, 3G tracking devices or older telematics-monitoring equipment, so you know how many you need to upgrade. Supply chain issues can impact some upgrades to newer devices, so work with a telematics provider that has the inventory in stock and ready to ship.
- Consult with your telematics provider. Immediately contact your telematics provider and upgrade as quickly as possible based on your network carriers and their sunset deadline.
- Create a transition plan. Work with your technology provider to establish a timetable to replace all 3G devices in your fleet. This timetable should depend on the size of your business.
- Schedule installation. Factor in time for the hardware to be installed in your fleets. Call on installation partners that can get it done quickly and efficiently, as a lack of guidance with installation can be a pain point with some fleet management providers. Fleets will likely need to uninstall the 3G device and replace it with a compliant device, but installation methods and newer generation technology make the process much easier than in the past. In fact, the installation should take mere seconds given the plug-and-play functionality of GPS tracking devices.
- Opt-in to proactive updates. Grant permission for your support team to update your device when necessary. In addition to enabling updates, make sure your telematics provider offers a warranty and around-the-clock support.
- Recycle your old 3G equipment. Wireless carriers offer trade-in programs to send in old phones/tablets in exchange for monthly bill credit or a promotional card.
Upgrading is worth the time investment
By upgrading to 4G or 5G, waste and recycling fleets can continue tracking their vehicles in real-time, scheduling preventive maintenance and gaining insight into fleet use. By rolling out 5G connectivity throughout a fleet, waste and recycling departments can gain improved fuel consumption, better mileage reporting, improved control over routing and a reduction in fuel emissions by being able to manage entire fleets more efficiently. Better driver communication from the improved bandwidth could reduce human error in routing of fleets and reduce downtime.
In short, moving to a 4G or 5G network will make telematics run more smoothly and efficiently. With the upgraded connectivity, waste and recycling fleet managers can improve communication, track critical fleet data in real-time and stay connected to their entire team. This will benefit both driver and vehicle performance and ultimately increase bottom-line profitability. There’s no time to waste.
Ray Kosick is product manager at GPS Insight, which provides mission-critical insights needed to make physical operations on the road and in the field simpler and safer to do. Learn more about the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company at www.gpsinsight.com.