What is the 2G network?

The “G” in 2G stands for the “Generation” of the cellular network. A higher number before the ‘G’ means more power to send out and receive more information and therefore the ability to achieve a higher efficiency through the wireless network.

The 2G network is based on narrow band digital networks. Signals are transmitted in digital format. The 3rd generation of mobile networks (3G) has become the most popular network as it allows devices to access the internet and complete complex tasks or download large files. There is now a 4G network which offers extreme download speeds.

The 2G and 3G networks are commonly used by GPS devices to broadcast signals, detect location and receive information.

Why is the 2G network being sunsetted?

For two reasons:

  1. The mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and internet services to its customers. The problem, known as the “spectrum crunch,” threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise customers’ prices. Wireless spectrum — the invisible infrastructure over which all wireless transmissions travel — is a finite resource. As carriers deal with ever-increasing data usage on their networks, they also are facing a spectrum shortage to carry all the traffic. Shutting down the legacy 2G networks will allow carriers to repurpose some parts of the spectrum for use in the more popular 3G and 4G networks.
  2. 2G devices (particularly phones) are no longer popular products for consumers. The enormous explosion in the popularity of smartphones and tablets has made the 3G and 4G networks far more profitable for carriers than the 2G network.

When will the closing of the network take effect?

AT&T will completely sunset the 2G network by December 31st, 2016. However, some places may see loss of service before that date.

Verizon’s 2G network will sunset by 2021 but, again, rural areas may see loss of service before that date.

T-Mobile and Sprint have not set dates for the sunset of their 2G networks. However, the pressure on carriers to provide 3G and 4G bandwidth will continue to increase, making it likely that they will reduce their 2G service over time.

In Canada, carrier terminology is a bit different. There was an older cellular network referred to as the CDMA network, which was similar to America’s 1G or Analog network. 2G and 3G networks are both bundled under the name “GSM networks.” The 4G network is called “LTE.” These are the same technologies as are used in the US; the main difference is that 2G and 3G are not marketed as separate services.

The CDMA network is being sunsetted, so any GPS devices which connected via that network are experiencing loss of service. All bands of the GSM network are currently supported. However, Canadian carriers are facing the same “spectrum crunch” as American carriers, and in time devices which rely on less popular spectrum bands (2G devices) may begin to experience loss of service.

How does this affect my district?

If your district’s fleet uses 2G GPS devices for vehicle tracking, you will need to migrate to 3G-capable devices. You must upgrade before your carrier’s 2G network goes down. If you do not migrate by that date, your GPS devices will no longer be able to communicate with global positioning networks or with your transportation software.

If you are on a carrier that has not set a date for shutdown, you should still consider upgrading to a more secure, more modern option. Due to the spectrum crunch, all 2G networks will begin experiencing brown outs and “cold spots” where 2G devices cannot receive a signal.

What do I need to do to migrate to the 3G network?

If you are already a Versatrans / Tyler Telematic GPS customer, and you bought your GPS devices after 2013, you are already on the 3G network. If you bought your devices prior to 2013, all you have to do is contact your Versatrans representative to schedule your migration.

If your district is not currently a Versatrans customer, we would be delighted to discuss your options with you. The upgrade to the newer Tyler GPS system can improve your district’s technology; for example, our GPS includes features such as driver time reporting. These features can make your fleet safer and more efficient.

If you are interested in learning more:

Exploring 2G, 3G, 4G Technology. Geotab Blog.

Demystifying 2G vs. 3G ; CDMA vs. GSM. Imetrik.

AT&T to Leave 2G Behind. The Wall Street Journal.

2G ‘Sunset’ Transition: Cellular Providers to Begin to Whittle Away 2G Network. Dealer Business Journal.

What the 2G Sunset Means to the Automotive Industry. GoldStar CMS.

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