As part of their efforts to protect cargo and ensure safety, the trucking industry uses sophisticated technology, as insurtech startups, insurance companies and industry professionals have said. Much of this technology, such as GPS monitoring of driver speed, depends on mobile communication networks. In another area, mobile communication networks are also used for stationary technology such as sensors for home security and damage from the elements.
So what happens to all these complex technological safeguards when the march of progress moves mobile networks from 3G to 4G to 5G? The increasing sophistication of each generation of mobile networks eventually leaves old technology in the dust. During 2022, major mobile carriers, one by one, shut down their 3G networks – AT&T in February, T-Mobile in March, and the former Sprint network now owned by T-Mobile in June. On December 31, Verizon plans to shut down its 3G network.
“The average consumer probably doesn’t even know much about network removal,” says John Canali, principal analyst at Omdia. “The renewal cycle for a mobile phone is two or two and a half years. Most people don’t really need to think about being tied to legacy technology, like they are with a connected car, which could be on the road for 10 or 15 years or even insurance dongle [a telematics tracking device for auto insurers] which they can assume to be connected via Bluetooth.”
Although many affected technologies have found ways to upgrade and prevent their capabilities from disappearing, there are still delays and gaps. In the trucking industry, as older vehicles were retired and new ones entered service, mobile technology upgrades accompanied new equipment, observes Michele Pelino, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Telematics monitoring devices for passenger vehicles are easier to upgrade because they are not woven into vehicle bodies, she adds.
However, other passenger vehicle technologies using mobile connectivity may not be as modular. Bill Menezes, chief analyst at Gartner, says Nissan Leaf cars had 3G capability that couldn’t be updated, and its mobile network connectivity served as the Internet of Things endpoint that service companies insurance could use to monitor driving distances and collisions.
“Then it just wouldn’t work after shutdown,” he says. “You either had to find a different module that could be installed as a workaround that included 4G connectivity, or you had to go without it until the customer updated to a newer car model that had 4G connectivity.”
That would be expensive and labor-intensive for a single vehicle, Menezes observes, but for fleets of dozens or hundreds of vehicles (especially for trucking cargo), “so it’s a pretty big undertaking. “, he says. However, most application providers dependent on mobile connectivity had a long delivery time, knowing that 3G “was going to be end of life at some point, even if they didn’t have a certain date”, adds Menezes.
Likewise, for applications such as home security where sensors and systems may use mobile technology to communicate, the vendor should update its equipment, Pelino notes. However, this may not be completely foolproof for reasons beyond the control of the security vendor.
“ADT used wireless connectivity a lot for security panels, instead of worrying about landlines being cut off,” Menezes recalls. “They scrambled a lot at the very end to get more, either because customers hadn’t responded or because they couldn’t get their hands on enough material to make the switch.”
ADT has converted its 3G technology to LTE, which is halfway between 3G and 4G and not as advanced as 4G. At this point, according to Steven Lawson, senior director of operations programs for 3G at ADT, the company “has converted nearly all of its customers’ systems that use 3G/CDMA radios,” he said in a statement. written statement. ADT offered two different solutions to update its systems and their connections to central monitoring stations. First, a do-it-yourself update in the form of a CellBridge device for LTE conversion, or second, a professional update by an ADT technician, according to Lawson.
However, according to Omdia’s Canali, LTE modems and the data rates for using them are more expensive. “Insurers looking to differentiate their insurance offerings based on product, rather than price, could tie a dongle with LTE connectivity to a wi-fi hotspot,” he says.
Of all the previously mentioned technology functions, the one that poses the biggest challenges due to the phasing out of 3G may be direct communication with policyholders via smartphone apps, especially for older customers.
“Retirees who don’t really pay attention to this don’t update their phones every 12 to 18 months,” says Pelino. “The cycle we use is usually much faster. There aren’t many 3G phones out there, but the ones that might exist will impact certain segments of the population.”
In a written response, John Hancock Life Insurance said the phasing out of 3G does not necessarily impede its communications with older policyholders. “We have several ways for customers to obtain information and conduct transactions, primarily through our online help center,” the company said. “We also know that approximately 25% of our callers, probably representing the older population, are still using landlines and therefore will not be affected by the 3G removal.”
However, the phasing out of 3G still hits public safety hard, as medical alert devices and fire alarms may also depend on 3G connectivity, according to Tammy Parker, principal analyst for global consumer telecommunications services at GlobalData. . For example, Teller County, Colorado, with a population of just over 24,000, is already having trouble with emergency services due to the phase-out and has been lobbying Verizon to find a solution. solution.
Another downside of phasing out 3G for any type of electronic monitoring devices, whether medical alert devices, home security systems, or any other device with its own hardware, is that they may not be a direct consumer of 3G through a carrier – simply using the network, notes Titus M, principal analyst at Everest Group. “Telecom providers conveniently said it’s not a direct consumer 3G so it’s out of their purview,” he said. “For those alarm systems, there are at least 10 million customers who are still 3G-based as well as some personal or elderly emergency response systems. They’re also still 3G-based and l Adoption has been quite slow.”