The time has come for fleet managers to leave 3G technology behind

By Jenny Lescohier and Paige HaeffeleFebruary 28, 2022

Ray Kosick, GPS Insight

News of the nationwide rollout of 5G mobile networks is well publicized. The reason for the upgrade revolves around a more reliable and wider coverage range alongside greater data speed. But what about 3G? Is it still a thing?

With 5G technology coming into play, major cell phone network providers, including AT&T and Verizon, are eliminating their 3G networks. For those approximate 5-10 million Americans who still use 3G phones and fleet management systems, this means an update is essential to avoid a loss of connectivity to vehicle and driver data as well as continue to record service data, track locations and remain in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation guidelines and regulations.

Though the upgrade might seem to be a huge inconvenience, experts say the long-term benefits of transferring to 5G are worth the hassle, as the update for your fleet will create more efficient service.

We talked with Ray Kosick, product manager for GPS Insight, about how to make the upgrade process seamless and preventing disruptions to operations. Following is an excerpt from that discussion.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What’s the difference between 3G and 5G, both from a technical and practical perspective?

Kosick: First, to understand 3G vs. 4G vs. 5G, we need to understand what “3G” actually means – the “G” stands for generation. This means that from 3G to 5G is jumping two generations in network technology, with each generation introducing significantly improved communication speeds, bandwidth and reduced network delays.

In terms of functionality, 3G was the first network that allowed for basic smartphone connectivity. 4G improved that functionality, leading to greater access to online video games and streaming, 5G is expected to make all things “smarter” (e.g. smart cars in how they communicate with traffic or other cars, or smart buildings in sensing whether power or services need to be enabled based on activity in a particular room).

Most devices were 2G up until the end of 2016, and were upgraded to either 3G or 4G/LTE. Currently, 4G is the default network for basic in-vehicle telematics services given the relatively low data needing to be transmitted (compared to a phone), and though 4G is expected to last for at least 10 years, 5G is slowly becoming a viable network solution for things like in-cab cameras and other similar technology.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What could happen if businesses don’t upgrade from 3G to 4G or 5G?

Kosick: Unfortunately, businesses and government entities using telematics devices that aren’t at least compatible with 4G/LTE will lose connectivity with the vehicles and assets they’re managing.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What are the steps to swiftly upgrade to 4G or even further, to 5G?

Kosick: Contact your telematics provider; every provider has programs in place to make the transition quick and painless. While the upgrade will likely mean uninstalling the 3G device and replacing it with a replacement 4G device, installation methods and newer generation technology make the process much simpler than before.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What will this upgrade cost in dollars and time?

Kosick: Cost will depend upon the capabilities of the next generation device chosen and the type of vehicle or equipment being tracked. For popular “plug and play” GPS tracking devices, the installation time is literally seconds.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: Does 4G/5G technology require any special know-how or equipment?

Kosick: No to the “know-how,” but yes to equipment. The device will minimally need to be able to connect to 4G network technology.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What can you suggest to those who feel they need help with the transition?

Kosick: We’ve been working closely with our existing clients to ensure their service is uninterrupted during the network transition, however, many fleets of competitive solutions are taking this opportunity to learn how GPS Insight can serve their needs better, faster and more economically. Despite supply chain issues around the world right now, GPS Insight has inventory in stock and ready to ship, and we have great incentives in place to encourage fleets to make the move.

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