While some cellular providers have pushed back their 3G sunsets, don’t be lulled into thinking these networks will be around forever. Most will be shut down by the end of 2022, and at least one provider, AT&T, plans to shut down its 3G network in February 2022.
Telematics service providers (TSPs) would be smart to switch to 4G LTE telematics devices — and coax their customers into the 4G future — sooner rather than later. Here are four key reasons.
1. Continuity of service
When customers lose mobile IoT connectivity, they lose time and money. TSPs will do well to encourage them to plan their migration in time to be up and running with new devices well in advance of the 3G sunset. Customers who do will enjoy uninterrupted data access, even in rural areas, with no disruption in fleet operations as networks in different locations shut down one by one.
Ultra-broadband 4G network technology offers faster data transfer speeds, lower latency and more reliable data connections than 3G. Once 4G LTE telematics devices are installed, customers won’t have to worry about sudden, unexpected connectivity failures, slow data transfer speeds, vehicles disappearing from GPS tracking maps or cessation of in-cab communications. And of course, customers with 4G LTE devices are set up to take advantage of 5G when the time comes, without further device upgrades.
2. Device availability
Procrastinating has its costs. Manufacturing lead times, especially during the pandemic, mean you won’t get the devices the moment you order them. Currently, a severe semiconductor shortage is affecting lead times across the automotive sector, and that chip shortage isn’t likely to abate anytime soon.
If you wait until demand peaks and supplies run low, your customers may be put in the position of having to take hundreds or thousands of vehicles out of service to perform the upgrades in a hurry rather than replace the devices during scheduled maintenance. The longer you wait, the higher the cost of your customers’ migration may be.
3. Carrier freedom
Certain older telematics devices were designed to work with a specific carrier. Newer telematics devices are carrier agnostic. Having one device with one SKU that works across carriers simplifies your inventory management and allows you to carry fewer devices, which can save you money. In addition, because you can use different carriers’ SIM cards with your device, you have the flexibility to choose the best carrier option.
4. New revenue streams
Future-proofing your device offerings can pay off, literally, by allowing you to sell services that add value and return on investment for customers.
For example, asset tracking via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity sensor tags lets customers monitor the location of cargo, tools and other mobile assets. With next-generation 4G devices, dozens of tags can be paired with a single telematics device to help construction and service customers keep track of multiple tools, and thereby avoid delays caused by missing resources. Video telematics can potentially exonerate fleet drivers in the event of a crash and increase fleet safety by enabling more sophisticated driver behavior monitoring.
Customers can also benefit from the in-cab Wi-Fi that newer devices offer, which effectively turns the vehicle into a hotspot. In-cab Wi-Fi provides connectivity for drivers’ tablets and other handheld devices and also allows trucks to interact with Wi-Fi beacons such as those at distribution centers.
All told, helping your customers take advantage of new devices and the services they support, as well as a unified mobility platform enabled by more robust edge processing, can increase your bottom line revenue and keep your company moving forward. 3G will soon be dead. Taking a proactive approach to the 4G transition by offering your customers 4G devices now can help ensure that your business takes the opposite course.