October 23, 2020
Best Cellular Networks for GPS Telematics
A Big Decision!
GPS Telematics solutions depend on cellular networks to work. Choosing the right telematics often comes down to choosing between cellular networks. If you’re in the market for GPS Telematics for a business or municipal fleet, here’s a breakdown of the cellular networks, and advantages and disadvantages of each one.
5G vs 4G vs. 3G vs. Satellite?
The major cellular providers are now running giant marketing campaigns touting 5G. But is 5G the best option for telematics? We can definitively say that unless you are running video, the answer is very likely NO! 5G not only costs a lot more, but also uses more power. This means it is not the best option for most fleets.
The majority of telematics devices in the U.S. are now on 3G, with more advanced ones now on 4G LTE. Momentum IoT was the first telematics provider to launch on 4G LTE two years ago. We did this due to the lower cost, low power consumption, and high coverage we found when testing. We run on a special portion of the spectrum dedicated to mobile telematics. Telematics providers are increasingly switching to 4G LTE.
Another choice would be true satellite. Due to power consumption and cost, this is almost never used in vehicle telematics. Of course, on boats, where getting decent cellular is impossible, satellite tracking is the norm.
AT&T vs Verizon vs T-Mobile?
These cellular providers each have their unique footprints. Typically, all are good in the urban areas, but vary in rural areas. It’s always good to check which carrier your telematics providers use, and then go to the cellular providers’ coverage maps for details. One advantage which AT&T does have these days is rapid expansion of coverage due to AT&T’s FirstNet contracts with government emergency response entities. FirstNet requirements have propelled AT&T to expand its footprint, and the side-benefit has been super-fast LTE in rural areas. Read more about that here: https://about.att.com/story/2020/expanding_nationwide_lte_coverage.html
What’s the network sunset risk, and how does this affect telematics?
Network sunsets are bad for GPS Telematics. When a network sunsets, it means the cellular provider turns off coverage. Just like that, your device turns into a brick. This is less critical with phones, since most consumers are in the market for a new phone within two years of purchase. But for GPS Telematics devices installed into your fleet, this is a huge burden. Not only do you have to rip out and re-install devices, but also pay for the new devices! In the case of Momentum IoT, this is a non-issue. Not only are we on the newer 4G network, but also, we charge only for monthly service, with no contract, and we switch out devices for free.
Will my GPS Telematics devices work across borders?
Short answer is, this depends not only on what cellular network the devices use, but what roaming agreements they pay for. Momentum IoT’s devices roam freely, with no cost to the user, across all of North America, including U.S./Canada/Mexico. Depending where you are, this can be a big deal. If you are in Southern California, or any border state, you want to know if your vehicles are driven over the border. Same in Toronto or Seattle.
What other network issues should I consider?
Your GPS Telematics devices may come with other capabilities embedded into the device. For example, the Momentum Eagle 1 device comes with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capability on it. This will enable us to launch new capabilities in the future, which leverage the proximity-based BLE technology. Devices which come forward-enabled let you take advantage of these new technologies without changing vendors or installations.