On Dec.31, 2022, Verizon will officially shut down its 3G network. While that date is still a long way off, it’s an important one for two key reasons: First, 3G devices won’t have service starting in 2023. So, fleets who don’t make the switch to 4G or 5G devices before the cutoff date won’t be able to rely on their existing devices. And second, migrating to new devices takes time and consideration – which is exactly why Verizon is giving its customers plenty of notice before sunsetting the 3G network.
So what do fleets need to know about the shut off? Amin Amini, associate director of Global Solution Engineers at Verizon Connect, answers common questions to help fleets be informed and prepared.
Why is Verizon Sunsetting its 3G Network?
Shutting off the 3G network is a matter of paving the way for new technology. A mobile company’s digital real estate is known as “spectrum,” and there is only so much “room” on that spectrum.“It’s all about the evolution of technology,” Amini said. “As our spectrum is used for the next generation of devices it gives our customers better coverage and many additional benefits that come along with the new technology.”
Why did Verizon Decide to Extend the Shut-Off Date to 2022?
Verizon first announced publicly that it was decommissioning its 3G CDMA network in 2016, providing a shut-off date of 2019. That date was first extended to the end of 2020 and now to the end of 2022. The reason? To minimize disruptions to customers.“Verizon Connect is pushing the date farther out compared to a lot of our competitors out there, and that’s because we’re a customer-centric company,” Amini explained. “We know there are millions of connected 3G devices being used today, and we knew our customers needed time to make the right decisions about their new devices and be methodical and considerate about those decisions. It’s not a light switch you can just flick off — it takes time and planning, and we wanted to give our customers time to do what’s right for their organization.”While Verizon is giving customers plenty of time to migrate from 3G to 4G LTE or 5G devices, it’s important to note the date will not be extended again.Why should fleets take steps to retire 3G devices and technology sooner than later?Even though fleets still have more than a year-and-a-half to choose and install new devices to replace their existing 3G devices, Amini said starting early allows fleet to consider all of their technology options and be more methodical and strategic about their choices.“4G LTE broadens fleets’ capabilities and scope,” he said. “So, while planning for the inevitable device swap, starting early gives them the chance to consider what they want to do over the next one, three or five years and how they want to scale their technology accordingly. Making a plan, vetting the options and finding the right solution takes time, so it’s important to start those conversations early.”
What Should Fleets That Keep Their 3G Devices Through 2022 Expect?
Although more than 99% of Verizon customers have already made the switch to 4G LTE or 5G devices, the less than 1% still accessing the 3G network may experience a degradation or complete loss of service. Likewise, Verizon service centers will only be able to offer limited support for older devices. Currently, 3G devices cannot be activated on the network. And, after Dec. 31, 2022, 3G devices will no longer be able to connect with the network altogether.Amini said there are other risks of hanging on to 3G devices, too. “The longer fleets wait to make the transition, the more there will be a crunch on them and their business, but also on their partners,” he said. “When you know the inevitable is coming, it’s important to take advantage of the supply of devices and resources now.”Fortunately, Verizon has been planning for the resources they will need to help customers through the shut off, having already navigated the 2G to 3G network change several years ago.“During that time, we learned a lot about the impacts to our customers and the resources and inventory needed, so we’ve forecasted properly for the least impact to customers,” Amini said. “You shouldn’t be worrying about the resources of your provider. They should do that for you and think ahead about the resources needed. I’ve been part of the planning process of this migration for years, and I’ve seen the subject-matter experts — from back-end architecture to front-end planning and deployment — make it relatively seamless for our customers.”What can current 3G customers do to make a smooth migration to new devices and technology?Amini said there are steps 3G customers can take to ensure they maximize their business operations as they migrate from legacy vehicle tracking units to 4G LTE devices.“The first step is to contact your account manager to start doing an inventory of your fleet, what devices you have deployed today, and comparing that to your vehicle mix — a ‘stare and compare’ of what you have today and what you’ll need tomorrow,” Amini said. “Next, fleets should do some discovery into what options are out there. Before they procure the next generation of devices, they’ll want to make sure the solution they choose is future proof.”Once fleets have selected new devices, Amini said it’s important to work within their organizations to develop a deployment process. Being strategic about when to pull vehicles off the road and exchange devices will result in the least impact to businesses. “Starting today will reduce the anxiety of tomorrow — and ensure there are no surprises at the end,” he said.
How Much Time Should Fleets Allow for Fheir Migration?
The amount of time fleets should allot to switch from legacy devices to newer technology depends on two factors: the size of their fleet and how those vehicles are dispersed in the field.“For a small fleet owner of 10 vehicles, it’s a relatively low level of effort. After planning with their account manager, they can probably deploy in a week or less,” Amini said. “However, for a large fleet of 1,000-2,000 vehicles, the process is more complex, as they have more variables to consider, like multiple depots, numerous office locations, and employees whose vehicles are located at their homes. Due to those factors, a large fleet with 1,000 devices to swap may want to implement installation over an eight-week period.”
How will moving to the 4G LTE and 5G networks benefit fleets?Fleets who move to devices operating on the 4G LTE network will see benefits like extended wireless network coverage, higher bandwidth and data speeds, a wider coverage range, and improved network reliability. As the 5G network expands, it can support more powerful technology with faster download speeds and lower latency (the delay before a transfer of data begins).Specifically, Verizon Connect Reveal customers will have access to a new High-Fidelity Tracking feature, which provides a three-fold increase in the frequency of real-time vehicle location updates on the Live Map. This gives fleet managers more accurate and timely information about the location of their vehicles and assets.“When you think about 4G LTE technology compared to what 3G gave us, it is such a more robust and reliable network, and our customers will experience better-than-ever coverage than they had with 3G — which was already spectacular,” Amini said. “Vehicle location updates are three times faster compared to 3G technology as well. This opens the door for customers to use the advanced technologies that have launched over the last few years — and opens the door for the future.”