The impending 3G shutdown is looming, with Vodafone already pulling the pin in December 2023 and Telstra and Optus expected to follow suit in June and September 2024, respectively.
While this shutdown offers improved coverage and connectivity for the nation, it also presents a challenge for businesses operating devices and telematics on 3G technology – and we are getting to crunch time.
But with challenge also comes opportunity. Read on to find out what this 3G shutdown is all about and how to maximise the investment for your business.
Why is the 3G network being shutdown?
With every new generation (G) of technology, providers need to retire outdated networks for optimal coverage and frequency. The existing 3G network has been prominent for over 20 years, but its wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) technology – using the entire cellular spectrum to transmit data – is now outdated.
Both 4G and 5G networks run on a much more efficient orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) technology, where the spectrum is partitioned into smaller sub-bands or slices, optimising frequency.
By shutting down the 3G network, providers can repurpose 3G radio frequency bands to improve their 4G and 5G services in a worldwide process commonly known as ‘re-farming’.
Co-CEO and Co-founder of Inauro, Craig Kesby, knows this space well, advising, “Every G has a lifetime. Years ago, we saw the removal of 2G to make space for 4G, and now we’re seeing the same happen for 3G to enable 5G services at scale across the country.”
Implications of the 3G shutdown for businesses
While increasing the 5G footprint is beneficial for businesses by providing better services (speed, throughput and diversity), the removal of 3G services is going to impact any equipment relying on 3G technology significantly.
As Craig points out, “Any intra/intercompany communication should not be impacted as it’s unlikely businesses still rely on 3G communications for voice services. However, we can’t say the same for other forms of connected technology.
“Any technology that’s set and forget (possibly set up by project managers who are no longer with the company) is potentially at risk. This includes payment terminals, connected data loggers, sensors and telemetry devices.”
Large vehicle and equipment fleets with telemetry devices from over six years ago are more likely to be affected by the 3G network shutdown, with Craig adding, “There are still more than 300,000 road vehicles that are running on 3G across the country, and likely more plant and machinery – especially in the OEM telematics space.”.
How to prepare for the 3G shutdown
Preparing for the 3G network shutdown should be considered well in advance of the deadline, reducing any negative financial impacts or disruptions to operations. Here are our top tips to get organised:
Review your current assets
Identify how many assets you have that rely on 3G connectivity. Check the compatibility of these assets with 4G or 5G and compile a list of all assets or devices that need to be upgraded.
Contact your existing suppliers
Your existing suppliers should already be in touch to provide upgrade options. If not, now is the time to see what they can offer and the expected timeframe. Remember: many other businesses are in the same position, so lengthy wait times may occur.
Your business needs may have evolved since your previous 3G solution was implemented. Take this opportunity to explore different options and improve efficiency, safety and sustainability with new devices. Telematic solutions that provide comprehensive data analysis can help you scale your business with ease.
Future plan your business needs
Whether you need 4G or 5G compatibility will depend on your business and device needs. 4G is expected to be around for another 7-10 years, which will suffice for most devices. Evaluate your current and future device needs, including features, functions and integrations.
Communicate your plan
Communicate your upgrade plan to all necessary stakeholders and employees. Explain the upgrade’s benefits, expectations and responsibilities and provide training and support as needed.
Could the 3G shutdown bring greater visibility to your operations?
The Internet of Things (IoT) market has developed significantly since the early 3G days, and purpose-built connectivity options are now available, including NB-IOT (Narrowband IoT) or CAT M1 (LTE-M) – which are 4G and 5G compatible and provide the longest lifecycle.