The 2G and 3G networks are ending soon. What now?
If your CommandGPS tracker operates on the 2G or 3G network, or you have any other technology that does, you’ve probably heard by now that you’ll need to make some changes. It may sound like a nice talking point to get you to upgrade your technology, but these networks are actually going away and devices operating on them will need to be updated eventually. We’re going to break down everything you need to know.
What CommandGPS Customers Need To KnowSprint has announced it will sunset its 2G CDMA network at the end of 2021. The 2G CDMA network will continue working fine until then. This sunset does not affect any 4G/LTE devices, only older 2G ones:
- If you bought a CommandGPS OBD2 plug after June 2019, you are not affected.
- If you bought a CommandGPS OBD2 plug prior to that, you are affected.
- If you bought a CommandGPS wired or asset tracker device, you are affected.
What is 2G and 3G?
When you hear cellular carriers talk about 2G and 3G, they are referring to second and third generations of cellular technology passing signals via phone towers over long distances. 3G was introduced in 2001 and made the advent of smartphones and internet connectivity on handheld devices possible. While not as fast as 4G and LTE, 3G has been a stable network for almost 20 years and covers 87% of the global population.
Why are they going away?
The short answer is that they are more expensive than 4G, 5G, and LTE networks, and are taking up bandwidth. Smartphones, IoT (internet of things), and GPS consume an extraordinary amount of data, and network providers want to boost capacity for newer technologies.
Is this already happening?
Several major carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, began shutting down their 2G networks in 2017. 3G shutdowns are beginning at the end of 2020 and through 2022, depending on the carrier. The CDMA network is also being shut down by Verizon and Sprint.
What is CDMA?
CDMA (code-division multiple access) is a one of two main types of radio networks used by cellular carriers. The other is GSM, and we’ll talk about that in another post. CDMA and GSM make it possible for multiple calls and data transfers to take place in a single radio signal. Verizon and Sprint are the two CDMA carriers in the United States.
Is CDMA the same as 2G and 3G and 4G?
Not exactly. CDMA is the radio network, whereas 2G and 3G, etc., are cellular networks. CDMA works on both the 2G and 3G networks and is a common backup for areas where the 4G LTE network has a weak signal.
What devices are affected?
IoT devices are a major portion of the devices still using 2G and 3G technologies. Most smartphones are already using newer networks, but devices such as GPS trackers don’t need the same data speeds and many have remained on the slower, reliable 3G network.
When is this happening?
Each major carrier manages its own network, and has its own timeline for shutting down. The earliest 3G shutdowns are expected to begin at the end of 2020, and all networks will be shut down by the end of 2022.
So… what’s the rush?
That’s the big question, right? Depending on your network, can’t you put off swapping devices for another year or two? You can, but there are some good reasons to consider upgrading now. First, most carriers have stopped activating 3G devices ahead of the sunset to control the number of devices that will stop working once the shutdown occurs. That means fewer resources devoted to firmware updates for 3G devices. Second, as the first wave of shutdowns begin, all 3G users will notice a degradation of service in certain geographical areas. For GPS users, that could mean loss of data in some areas.
These networks are going away and devices operating on them will need to be upgraded eventually. Fortunately, some simple planning can ensure that your GPS, IoT, and other data needs have a seamless transition. Plan now for the best time to swap out 3G devices with upgraded technology. You may even find that newer devices have added functionality to benefit your business.