It’s no secret that the past year has been a hard one for supply chains across industries. To a great extent, the coronavirus outbreak was the beginning of disruptions, as factories were forced to shut down or reduce production for the safety of their workers. That caused a ripple effect on shipping and fleet companies, in the form of a sharp drop in demand. Yet the need and want for some goods and services never fell, causing a huge imbalance between supply and demand that the global economy is still recovering from.
Many delivery providers looked to internal technologies and systems to help prevent further disruption to their businesses. But then the 3G sunset loomed.
Major wireless carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are retiring their 3G cellular networks to focus on the expansion of 5G networks and increased infrastructure. To create a faster and more expansive 5G highway, cellular providers must free up more bandwidth, meaning that any devices that run on 3G data will become unusable and obsolete.
For fleets specifically, this will force drivers that rely on electronic logging devices (ELDs) and telematics to evolve swiftly. Any devices still relying on 3G will need to at least upgrade to 4G technology in order to avoid a loss of connectivity to vehicle and driver data, record service data, track vehicle location, stay in compliance and ultimately keep operations running smoothly.
According to ABI Research, the 3G sunset could have a crippling effect on more than 350,000 Class 8 vehicles and other connected cold-chain trailers. What’s more, of the nearly 4 million Class 8 trucks in the U.S., almost 3.8 million are employed by smaller fleets that are more likely to have delayed the transition to 4G. This could result in serious challenges to an industry that moves roughly 72.5% of the nation’s freight by weight — especially considering the already strained operations seen around the world.
To avoid further supply chain and service disruptions, it’s vital for fleet managers to ensure that their technology and smart devices are upgraded by the time carriers shut down their 3G networks this year: AT&T in February, Sprint in March, T-Mobile in July, and Verizon in December.
In response to the strain being placed on supply chains and businesses, many companies have begun evaluating their hardware, software and technology to help ease the impact on operations. The 3G sunset only adds another layer to that assessment, and forces businesses to gauge which devices rely on 3G networks and how the sunset can negatively affect productivity, business continuity and more.
Unfortunately, many companies that utilize fleets are unaware which areas of their operations currently utilize 3G data and need to make the switch. Following are some steps to guide fleets as they prepare for the carrier shutdowns.
While the deadlines create a sense of urgency and anxiety around the 3G sunset, ultimately this upgrade is a good thing. The shutdown may cause some disruption, but the expansion of 5G networks will lead to better and more efficient fleet services. Fleets will have access to:
This will cut down on delay times due to lagging technology, and increase communication and collaboration between the fleet and home base.
With Cisco forecasting 27.1 billion networked devices in 2021, businesses must recognize the importance of evolving technology, and ensure that those devices can be used whether in the office or on the road. Think of it as maintenance: You rotate tires, change oil and more to make sure a vehicle is running properly. The same goes for your technology. To avoid service outages in 2022 and prevent further disruptions to the supply chain, look into your network coverage today. The clock is ticking on 3G, and you don’t want your technology or organization to get left behind.
Ray Kosick is product manager at GPS Insight.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.