Wireless carriers in the U.S. will be shutting down their 3G networks in 2022. This means that older devices using 3G network technology will soon be offline. To avoid losing connectivity, fleets must upgrade their equipment to 4G LTE or higher. If fleets don’t prepare for the 3G shutdown, drivers and back-office teams will lose fleet visibility and data, which will disrupt efficiency and compliance.

Why is 3G shutting down? And how can fleets minimize risk during this transition? Here’s what you should know.

Background on the 3G Shutdown

Wireless networks have a limited amount of bandwidth to serve an increasing array of IoT devices and data-hungry applications. To continue delivering speed and security, they must constantly increase network capabilities. As a result, every five to 10 years they launch new wireless technologies, like 5G.

Because the spectrum is finite, they phase out older technology to make room for newer wireless generations. When 3G is shut down, its freed-up spectrum will be used to improve the reach and performance of 4G and 5G.

Wireless technology evolution doesn’t happen overnight. The 3G spectrum launched in 2001, and 4G has been around since 2008 and is expected to operate through 2030. Throughout 2022, 3G will be squeezed onto less bandwidth and its performance and connectivity will decline. So don’t wait until the last minute to upgrade your equipment.

When is 3G Shutting Down?

Here are the current 3G shutdown dates:

  • AT&T: February 2022
  • T-Mobile: April 2022
  • Verizon: December 2022

While these deadlines have been extended in the past, fleets shouldn’t assume there will be more extensions. For example, in 2021 Verizon’s future plans for 3G were paused, giving its customers with 3G devices a brief reprieve. However, Verizon’s 3G shutdown date hasn’t changed in 2022 and appears to be moving forward, so customers should definitely plan to upgrade.

What the 3G Shutdown Means for Trucking and Transportation

What will be affected by the 3G shutdown? Many fleets have a wide range of aging equipment that relies on 3G network connectivity. Older fleet telematics devices connect to 3G networks to track data like vehicle location and vehicle equipment health.

Technology like video systems inside and outside truck cabs, trailer refrigeration, and Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) use 3G networks. Commercial drivers with 3G phones and tablets will also need to upgrade their devices to maintain communication with their fleet.

Without connectivity, fleets risk a range of business disruptions. Disconnected technology not only means fleets lose vehicle tracking and driver communication, it also impacts regulatory standing. For example, drivers who are asked for their electronic record duty status (eRODS) by roadside enforcement officers need a wireless connection to send eRODS transfers. If their device runs on a 3G network, they will be unable to send transfers, making them no longer in compliance with ELD technical standards.

How to Manage the Transition

If your fleet is still using 3G technology, it’s essential to inventory your legacy 3G equipment. Then, develop a comprehensive transition plan. Here are some tips for managing this transition:

Inventory 3G devices:

Create a spreadsheet to track details about legacy equipment, like device type, brand, location, and size. Get an accurate count of how many 3G devices need to be replaced.

Select a vendor:

When evaluating vendors, discuss topics like 4G LTE versus 5G, how long it takes to remove and replace devices, and whether the vendor can meet your fleet’s unique requirements

Plan for data migration:

Find out where data lives. Then, have a plan for transferring data to new storage (e.g., company cloud, on-premise servers).

Coordinate device replacement:

Schedule vehicles around the installation process to minimize disruptions and downtime.

Communicate your plan:

Make sure everyone understands your upgrade plans, as well as the next steps like training.

Provide training:

New technology can be confusing, so set up training sessions and distribute training materials.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t already upgraded to 4G LTE or 5G equipment, your fleet is at risk in 2022. As 3G network bandwidth is phased out during the year, your fleet will experience increasing issues with network latency and connectivity.

Now’s the time to plan ahead. Doing so will ensure your upgrades are within budget and don’t involve last-minute fees. Your fleet will also benefit from newer, faster technology sooner.

For a smooth transition, partner with an expert like Netradyne. We can answer your questions about the 3G wireless shutdown and help you plan the ideal transition for equipment upgrades across your fleet.

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