Changes in wireless technology and the effects on GPS tracking for fleets today and tomorrow
The communications industry is making a big push towards re-purposing older 2G networks to further expand the effectiveness of the growing 3G and 4G spectrums. So big, in fact, some of the biggest telecommunications service providers intend to completely end 2G service within the next year, and have already made strides to integrate the dated technology with the more efficient 3G/4G networks. But what implications will this change have for fleet technologies such as GPS tracking? And what considerations should transportation companies be making to ensure their investment in telematics continues to provide value?
For many years GPS tracking devices have operated on 2G networks to transmit location data, and for simple black box solutions that only need to send small amounts of data this system has worked well. But to understand the necessity of a switch from 2G to 3G, it’s important to understand the major benefits the newer generation networks bring:
Perhaps the biggest change 3G brings is the pure bump in data transfer rates. While 2G download and upload speeds capped performance at about 236Kbps, 3G can reach rates as high as 21 Mbps (nearly 90x faster than 2G). This is essential to compensate for the increased amount of data tracking that devices can be programmed to capture and transmit beyond just location, things like: ignition statuses, harsh braking events, vehicle performance information, speed data, odometer data and more.
When 3G technology first started rolling out in the early 2000s, 2G networks still dominated the majority of the map with wide areas of coverage. Today the 3G spectrum for many service providers now covers roughly 96% of the United States and touches most populated areas. The increased coverage area, and the fact that 3G devices are capable of accessing 2G networks when 3G is not available, means the dots on the map stay on the map.
It’s also worth noting that the transmission of signals can be more dependent on weather conditions for 2G technology, since it operates using a mix of frequencies in both the higher and lower ranges. As the networks improve infrastructure, devices will become more reliable in their data transmission.
The transition from 2G technology to 3G isn’t limited to spectrum tweaks and speed boosts. With 3G comes the ability for devices to adopt entirely new applications that were not possible on 2G’s predominantly voice focused technology, like video transmission which is used by dash cam systems. As telematics devices have advanced to support this new network standard, they’ve also enhanced their support for other technologies such as Bluetooth which can be used by Elog systems and sensors to track harsh braking or turning events.
For fleets that already utilize telematics to track the location and performance of vehicles, the transition to the 3G network standard will bring with it new opportunities to improve the way you gather information about your operations. If you’re still using 2G based devices, now may be the best time to learn what a hardware upgrade could do for you before 2G network services come to a halt.