According to 2019 data provided by GSMA Intelligence, an estimated 17% of US subscribers, roughly 47.3 million, still used 3G networks. Many consumers are unaware that this year marks the sunset for 3G and could be at risk of losing service.
This could impact employees and businesses in situations that use this network if employees are required to be reachable by a mobile phone for work tasks, scheduling, and time tracking. With more employees working remotely than ever, it pays to have a business strategy that extends beyond the business campus.
David Witkowski, founder and CEO of Oku Solutions, has deep experience within the telecommunications industry. He provided multi-level examples of situations that may experience difficulties as 3G leaves the scene:
Trucking Industry: The activity management systems to manage driving breaks to remain compliant that aren’t upgraded and still operate on the 3G system.
“This case can be more commonly seen for independent truckers who have not upgraded equipment and won’t be authorized to drive,” Witkowski said.
Electric Vehicles (EV): The charging systemmay be challenged, especially in cases of early designs produced by start-ups, even as recently as 2018. Chargepoints and boards may need to be swapped to more advanced technology.
“I appreciate their desire to go to market, but they didn’t take the time to anticipate this shutdown.”
Court Systems: Witkowski said some departments with limited budgets may be relying on older technology with their electronic monitoring program, leaving ankle monitors offline that are supposed to track people’s locations, whether they are required to be home or allowed mobility privileges for work.
Flip Phones: These phones have survived technology advances for reasons ranging from personal preference to affordability and beyond, but many have carriers that cannot support their connections after 3G’s sunset.
Along with mobile phones, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), suggests assessing these devices for possible connectivity issues:
- Medical devices
- Vehicle SOS services
- Home security systems
- Other connected products
Going one step further in preparedness, consider that some devices and internet connections depend on cellular connectivity during power outages; it is strongly advised for those using 3G services in these instances to connect with the monitoring company to see if the device is still supported. Internet plan packages may or may not support cellular back up and should be independently verified and a plan activated to address those situations that need to be remedied to keep the business functioning.
Many of the devices and equipment that will soon be inoperable were created by enterprises no longer in business.
“They were designed with the mindset, ‘Oh, this will be fine. Let’s get the order, deliver the product, collect the check, and walk away,’” Witkowski said. “Twenty years later the company doesn’t exist anymore or was acquired and support to upgrade these devices weren’t absorbed by the acquiring entity. Economics argue that’s the direction you should go, and some will be left behind by progress.”
Witkowski said this same argument during a business acquisition can be seen on a much larger scale with the abandonment of 3G and the move to 5G.
“The answer to, ‘Why?’ is this. 3G is inefficient, 20 years old, and needs to go away to make room for new technologies. Spectrum availability is a fixed thing and we must make the most efficient use of it, which older technologies cannot provide today.”
Enterprises still looking to deploy 5G need to consider their business and their employees. “Should you use private or contract with commercial providers? In terms of security needed, there are many reasons to roll it within the firewall for campus coverage,” Witkowski said. “Second, where is your workforce located? Are employees back in the office, at home, or hybrid? Providing coverage in the home environment must be considered for the last two situations, with back-up options identified.”
Witkowski said he remains optimistic for 5G, but acknowledges, “there’s still a lot of work to be done and it’s going to be some time before all enterprises can count on having 5G for their employees.”