3G, 4G, 5G: What Does it All Mean for GPS Fleet Tracking Systems?
3G Networks Are on Their Way Out.
As mobile phone users have been noticing for some time, the big telecom carriers—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.—have been rolling out their new and improved 4G LTE and 5G communication networks, and moving customers’ cell service away from their soon-to-be abandoned 3G (third-generation) communication networks.
You may be wondering: What does this have to do with the GPS fleet tracking industry? Simply put, fleet tracking/telematics providers utilize these communication networks to run their systems. And more importantly, most GPS fleet tracking customers are probably using tracking devices that were designed for 3G networks.
The upcoming “3G sunset” means businesses that use GPS fleet tracking systems will need to update their soon-to-be outdated GPS tracking devices in the coming months.
As a leader in GPS fleet tracking services for years, ClearPathGPS has been out in front of this planned technology migration for some time. We’re in the ideal position to help both existing customers and new ones make the most of these new network technologies. But before we dive into that, first let’s take a look at what 3G, 4G, and 5G mean, and their impact in general on our industry!
3G, 4G, 5G…What’s the Difference?
The big carriers are retiring 3G because that technology—now more than 20 years old—is no longer sufficient to support the growing capacity demands of customers, the ever-increasing number of devices accessing cell networks each day, and newer, bandwidth-hungrier apps continually hitting the market.
Decades ago, 3G networks enabled groundbreaking services like internet access on mobile devices. But it wasn’t until 4G came along in 2009 and 2010 that we saw more advanced apps, high-definition mobile video streaming, and the ability to connect other types of devices—the “Internet of Things.” 5G, which some carriers are already rolling out, promises to offer even more capacity and to support even more devices on the same networks.
What Does This Mean for GPS Fleet Tracking?
Most of the big telecom providers have announced plans to fully retire their 3G networks in the near future. AT&T, for example, will be shutting down its 3G service across the country throughout 2021. Sprint is planning to complete its 3G-network shutdown by late 2022. Because fleet tracking/telematics providers primarily use these 3G networks for their systems, fleet-based businesses need to be aware of a few realities:
1. Businesses with GPS fleet tracking need to act soon
If your business has been using vehicle tracking services for even the last few months, chances are your tracking units were built to run on 3G technology. That means you’ll want to move quickly to replace your existing trackers with newer ones that are compatible with 4G and 5G networks. If you wait until it’s too late, you could have problems receiving data from your fleet’s tracking devices.
If your business hasn’t yet signed up with a vehicle tracking service provider, you’ll want to make sure the partner you choose is already on top of these developments and is taking action—both to help its customers make the transition and to take advantage of these newer technologies to improve its GPS tracking solution.
2. This transition can be smooth and painless
The good news is that, if you’re working with the right vehicle tracking services company (such as ClearPathGPS!), making these upgrades won’t slow down your business at all or cause any headaches either for your ops team or your field service techs.
In fact, the process can be as simple as unplugging the existing tracker from each vehicle and replacing it with the new one your GPS tracking company sends you. The upgrade should be fast and easy, so there’s no reason to procrastinate.
3. The newer network technologies can make vehicle tracking apps even better
The really good news is this: Assuming you’re working with the right GPS tracking company, the migration to 4G and 5G creates new opportunities to improve your vehicle tracking solution.
That means this transition can be more than just a device swap-out. It can also lead to a GPS fleet tracking system that can do even more for your business’s operations.
ClearPathGPS: Leading the Way to 4G and 5G
Enhancing our vehicle tracking features
ClearPathGPS is already building new functionality into our solution, which the limitations of 3G networks didn’t allow us to offer. With the new 4G technology, for example, we can give our customers more reporting data about their fleets, such as updates anytime a vehicle makes a significant heading change.
Customizing our customers’ toolkits
We’re also taking this opportunity to help businesses—both our existing customers and companies looking into vehicle tracking for the time—select just the right mix of tracking devices for their unique needs.
Some companies will want to use our plug-and-play GPS devices, which plug directly into their vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port. Others will prefer the covert wired trackers, installed behind the dashboard and hidden from view. In addition to tracking their vehicles, some businesses might also want to monitor fixed assets in the field, such as containers, trailers, and heavy equipment. For those companies, we’ll suggest our asset tracking units.
Businesses with crews that switch drivers, or whose field techs share vehicles, might also want our Driver ID Kits. These simple fob devices let a company know which driver is behind the wheel of which vehicle in the fleet.
Some businesses might also want to add the ability to visually monitor their drivers, vehicles, and surrounding areas while their techs are out in the field. For those companies, we’ll recommend vehicle dashcams. This 4G switchover creates the perfect opportunity to help our customers re-examine their GPS tracking
Continuing to offer the most flexible plans in the industry
One final note. As we migrate our customers to 4G/5G-compatible tracking units—and sign on new customers—ClearPathGPS will continue offering the most flexible subscription plans.
We pointed out above that if you’re with another GPS tracking provider, you’ll want to check with them—as soon as possible—to make sure they’re aware of the 3G sunset and that they already have a plan to help you migrate to the new technologies before it starts negatively affecting your vehicle tracking data.
But you also want to be careful that your provider doesn’t take this 4G/5G migration as an opportunity to extend your existing service contract or rope you into a new long-term agreement. As a ClearPathGPS customer, you’ll never have to commit to a multi-year contract if that wouldn’t be appropriate for your business.
Looking to add GPS fleet tracking to your operations arsenal? Currently using a system and looking for a better solution partner? Make the 4G switchover quick and painless. Contact ClearPathGPS today.