By Kevin Dennehy
March 1, 2022
Millions of passenger cars, as well as trucks and buses, lost emergency, convenience, and navigation features last week as AT&T became the first telecommunications company to shut down its 3G network. Both T-Mobile and Verizon will sunset their 3G service later this year.
3G-connected vehicles will lose their automatic crash notification and other features. By some accounts, more than 10 percent of public-school buses could lose GPS and other communications. For fleets, it means loss of vehicle connection and driving data for companies that have not upgraded their telematics services. Many of these companies, because of the pandemic, delayed software and hardware upgrades.
The 3G shutdown will affect millions of vehicle models from 2010 to 2019 that had built-in 3G connectivity. Explained Kenny Hawk, CEO of Mojio, a connected car supplier: “It’s a big problem. Any features that depended on that 3G wireless connection will no longer work, including life-saving crash detection and eCall,” he said. “Some automakers are ripping and replacing the 3G embedded telematics control unit, antenna, etc., and leaving their customers with no solution and trying to shift the blame to mobile operators. Our OEM customers, including VW and Audi are providing our 4G upgrade free of charge to in-warranty customers.”
Hawk said his company offers an LTE upgrade that includes an OBDII (dongle) device, and analytics. “Our solution includes OEM-grade crash detection, automatic crash notification, eCall, stolen vehicle locator, live vehicle trip tracking, driver scoring, speed alerts, disturbance alerts, low-cost fuel finder” as well as “predictive maintenance/vehicle health alerts.”
Steve Well, the founder and chief revenue officer of ClearPathGPS said his company has been “in contact with every customer who still has 3G gear in their fleet. Every device has either been swapped already, a swap device is at the customer site waiting for professional installation or has been shipped to the customer and waiting for them to self-install. As of today, we think that only 1 to 2 percent of our base will be impacted and we should be able to address those customers fairly quickly. It’s still unclear to us if the impact will be all at once or over time. Either way, we feel that we are in good shape mostly due to an aggressive outreach campaign. At one point, it even included handwritten notes from account managers.”
Other telematics suppliers such as Geotab may offer a limited warranty – theirs is called ProPlus and includes a limited warranty that covers a fleet for future network shutdown and provides replacements for failed devices.
Plans to shut down the 3G network to make room for 5G at the end of this year stretch back to early 2021. But Covid-19 intervened and no doubt some fleets may not have planned adequately. 3G may not be shutdown uniformly across the nation, with some areas available longer. But blackout or sunset, take your pick of terms, is almost certain to be complete by the end of this year despite some 3G suppliers, such as alarm companies, hoping to win a delay from the FCC. It seems unlikely.
If you’re uncertain how this change will affect your fleet operations, the best option is to query your FMC or telematics provider, which, no doubt, has been tracking the impact and advising its customers.
About the author
Kevin Dennehy, the editor of Location Business News, has covered all aspects of tracking and location systems in a journalism career of over 30 years. His vast expertise includes Global Positioning Systems, mapping, navigation, telematics, and Advanced Drivers Assistance Systems. Most recently, he has followed and written about developments in “autonomous” vehicles and intelligent transportation systems. In addition to founding and editing newsletters covering these areas, he has written for daily newspapers and was instrumental in creating highly successful conferences that attracted leading experts in these fields. Email Kevin at [email protected]