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3G networks shutting down could leave fleet technology solutions powerless

Providers are in the process of shutting down older 3G cellular networks, and that means the fleets running equipment on these networks could see disruptions if they don’t upgrade before the 3G networks disappear.

It’s time to join the 5G revolution. So we’ve been told. If you’ve seen the ads on television, providers are rolling out their 5G technology across the country, but trucking isn’t quite ready for 5G just yet. In fact, based on conversations, much of trucking is still not ready for 4G.

Andy Leuthe, senior director of product marketing for SmartDrive systems, told FreightWaves that there is likely still a significant portion of trucking that is still using 3G and does not know that providers such as AT&T and Verizon are shutting down their 3G services.

“The cell providers are telling us they are shutting down their 3G services,” he said at the National Private Truck Council’s (NPTC) 2019 Annual Education Management Conference and Exhibition, on Sunday at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The upside is that 3G is not being shut down tomorrow, but fleets should not wait to begin transitioning their services to 4G technology, Leuthe said.

“I think the 3G/4G is really a business decision,” he said. “Fleets have an option to evaluate this on a lot of perspectives.”

To be clear, Leuthe said the guidance SmartDrive is getting is that 5G is as many as 10 years away for commercial transportation, but the 3G system shutdowns are starting to take place now. Each provider has a different timeline, he said, but fleets need time for the conversions, which is why those conversations should be happening now.

Currently, SmartDrive receives health status updates from its devices in the field and transmits that information to customers, including whether the device is running on 3G or 4G. Leuthe noted, however, that this transition doesn’t just affect SmartDrive devices, but all electronic-based devices using cellular technology in a truck.

“We started having conversations with our customers a year ago,” he said, adding that at the time, about 90 percent had no idea 3G was being shut down, or that they were running on 3G. “We were trying to give our customers a lot of time, so we started by updating our health reports.”

For those customers that have already made the transition, it has been smooth, but Leuthe advised fleets looking to purchase any piece of hardware/software these days to ask whether it runs on 3G or 4G.

For some customers, the switch is as simple as swapping out the modem, while others may have to, or choose to, upgrade their entire system. SmartDrive can do either, but Leuthe points to its SR 4 one-box solution that serves as a central hub for disparate systems on a truck, eliminating the need to have three or four modems, as a possible option that fleets can consider if they have to replace several modems.

The single box will offer a single integrated and aligned understanding of time, location, and driver and vehicle performance to third-party applications. Reporting will feed from the truck, through the control box, to SmartDrive or Geotab data centers that will route the data and information to the appropriate parties, whether that would be in the back office of the driver.

“Are they a good candidate to move to an SR 4 or could they be a candidate to just swap out a modem to stay with the SR 3,” he asked. It comes down to cost, the number of vehicles, the fleet’s budget and its satisfaction with its vendor among other considerations.

Fleets running any 3G cellular technology will eventually be left with unusable technology at some point in the future, which is why SmartDrive and others are trying to educate fleets on their choices now.

“We want to help fleets understand all their technology,” Leuthe said.

One Comment

  1. Sam

    Hi Brian, that is really nice speculation related to the fleet industry. It will vary on the demographics as well. In the Asian market, it is not an issue as of now. This market is not an early adopter for any new technology and is still depends upon 3G most the time. But for the service providers in this field, your article is alarming.
    Thanks for the insights.

Comments are closed.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected].