Bandwidth, latency and throughputs — oh my! There are a lot of technical nuances related to the 3G CDMA and GSM network sunsets, which are part of wireless carriers’ continued investment in 4G Long Term Evolution or LTE networks.
For fleets with 3G-connected onboard equipment, this will require an upgrade to devices that leverage more current networks. Navigating this period of transition can be confusing, particularly as it relates to how the sunset will impact your drivers and onboard equipment.
To give you a better understanding of what this means to you, we put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the 3G network sunset to help you ensure your fleet’s connectivity — both today and in the years to come.
Q: Why is the 3G network sunset happening?
Wireless carriers are continuing to invest in 4G Long Term Evolution or LTE networks, which provide faster and more comprehensive coverage. In order to invest in LTE, wireless carriers are sunsetting existing older 3G networks, specifically CDMA and GSM networks.
The 3G network sunset has to do with capacity and bandwidth. There is a limited amount of spectrum available on wireless networks. Each carrier has a licensed spectrum available to them.
As wireless carriers want to introduce new services and networks, they have to reuse some of their spectrum to do so. Networks need more bandwidth to keep up with today’s—and tomorrow’s—demands for faster, better data transmission.
Q: When will the 3G network sunset occur?
U.S. carriers began to repurpose CDMA and GSM networks in 2019, starting with Verizon and with other carriers following suit in 2020 and beyond. Verizon stopped accepting new device activations on the CDMA network in June 2018.
Trimble expects the CDMA shutdown will happen gradually, with providers cutting back coverage in lower volume areas prior to the final network shutdown date resulting in coverage gaps prior to full network shutdown. A gradual shutdown process may pose significant challenges to fleets that rely on CDMA networks to communicate with drivers and vehicles, as well as to collect important data related to fleet safety, compliance and overall performance.
Q: Is the 3G network sunset something only Trimble devices are affected by?
The network sunsets are driven by the wireless carriers and impact any 3G-powered device, regardless of the vendor or manufacturer. This is an industry-wide challenge and not limited to a single fleet mobility provider.
Q: What are Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks all about?
It is a continued advancement of network coverage and bandwidth. LTE networks are capable of transferring data 10 times faster than older CDMA and GSM networks.
LTE also provides access to coverage in geographical areas that CDMA and GSM networks never served.
Q: What does this CDMA sunset mean to me?
If your fleet has any onboard equipment that connects to older 3G networks, you may begin to see a degradation or “sunset” in coverage, starting in late 2020. This degradation will eventually render these devices obsolete.
For fleets with this older onboard technology, this network sunset will require the purchase of LTE onboard equipment.
Q: Why should I upgrade now?
Wireless carriers are making a significant investment in LTE coverage to ensure the longevity of these networks both today and in the years to come.
By moving your fleet to LTE today, you are helping to ensure your connectivity is “future-proofed”, giving your drivers and vehicles coverage that is built to last and opens you up to what the future of fleet mobility holds.
Q: Why should I upgrade to 4G with 5G just around the corner?
3G CDMA networks will go dark before 5G coverage is widely available. We are actively engaged with wireless carriers and will continue to closely monitor the development of 5G networks. With that being said, 5G is in the same infancy LTE was five years ago, with markets just now being announced and standards being set. 5G-powered hardware and modems are also very sparse.
4G LTE networks will be in place until at least 2030, which means moving to LTE today will give your fleet a reliable, long-term connection to wireless networks.
Q: How is Trimble Transportation helping their customers upgrade?
Trimble is committed to helping ensure your fleet’s connectivity — both today and in the years to come. We have anticipated this network sunset and have solutions available that harness 4G LTE networks.