The 3G sunset and the dawn of 5G

With 3G sunsetting into 5G, devise a plan to guarantee a network transition with little disruption to your business or clients.
With 3G sunsetting into the dawn of 5G, devise a plan to guarantee a network transition with little disruption to your business or clients.

The 3G End of Life is upon us, being called the “3G Sunset.” Some carriers have already started shutting down their 3G networks in January and February with all of them being taken offline by December 2022. This means that any devices previously operating on a 3G system will need to be upgraded to 4G or 5G in order to continue to operate.

3G is the third generation of cellular technology for facilitating online access for mobile devices. 3G speeds are slower, with the average download speed clocking in around 15 MBps. Compare that to the much faster speeds of today’s 4G and 5G networks where download speeds can reach 300 MBps or 30 GBps respectively. The speed gain is not going to be a huge improvement for irrigation or lighting controllers immediately, but in a couple of years when more artificial intelligence is being used, the speed increase will be valuable.

Hopefully this is not the first time you are hearing about this shift in technology. A wide array of devices including cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, security systems, car navigation, in-vehicle emergency alert systems, medical devices, irrigation or lighting controllers, and various sensors and meters all could be affected. If this is catching you off guard, you will need to react quickly.

The first step is to find out how many devices will be affected that you are responsible for. Reach out to your manufacturer reps and ask them to run a report on the 3G devices you have purchased. Remember, you are not just asking about devices that you may have installed for your clients, but you should also be asking companies that support your internal infrastructures such as your security company and your GPS provider.

Next, depending on your time restrictions, you have the opportunity to evaluate different providers. If you have not been happy with the service or product you have been using, take the time to talk to other options and find a better solution. Many providers are happy to offer discounts if you are switching from a competitor.

If you have a tight deadline, it is important to plan out your transition so that it causes little to no disruption to your business or clients. An important part of that plan should be communication. Give your clients and employees plenty of notice so that they can also plan accordingly. You may need to arrange for GPS units to be swapped out overnight to avoid holding up crews or use a staggered start time so that units can be upgraded before crews go out for the day. If an upgrade is going to interrupt a client’s service, they’ll want to make other arrangements during that time.

Once you have a solid plan, it’s time to enact it. Call your providers and let them know when you need supplies or how you would like upgrades to be installed. Labor is short in all industries right now, and so are supplies. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait a little while before you can get some help.

While we are currently in the midst of the 3G EOL, it is not a bad idea to start looking at how you can start to future-proof your assets as much as possible by investing in 5G devices when they are available. The first 4G networks started being used in 2011, which means the technology is already a decade old. As mentioned previously, 5G networks allow data transfers that are 100 times faster than 4G networks can support. 5G speeds will surpass what is currently being delivered to home broadband networks and will allow more people to have access to the internet. 5G is also more efficient than 4G because it will allow for sending extremely directional signals rather than multidirectional signals used in 4G. 5G networks will also support more connected users per square mile than 4G networks will allow. With more and more connected devices appearing in our everyday lives, it will be important they all can connect and transmit simultaneously. 5G is certainly not flawless, however. The use of higher frequencies to move larger amounts of data faster can only reliably communicate between shorter distance connections. A lot more antennae will need to be deployed closer to end-user devices. The higher frequency also leads to more absorption, or signal loss, when passing through environmental and physical barriers such as rain, fog, mountains, and buildings. Rural areas will be the last to see 5G because of the investment cost of antennae and equipment to cover sparse populations. Pay attention to these tips and make sure you’ve got plans in place so you can stay ahead of this 3G sunset.

Michael Mayberry is the chief technology officer for Level Green Landscape LLC in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, blending a passion for the outdoors with technology to create a new way for the green industry to conduct business. He can be reached at

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