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Friday, December 2, 2022

Don’t get caught in a telematics data ‘blackout’

COMPANIES operating vehicle tracking systems need to future-proof their black boxes to avoid major ‘blackouts’ in their telematics data.

The warning from vehicle tracking service provider Crystal Ball comes as the UK’s main mobile telephone operators begin to phase out the ageing 2G network – used by many black box devices to transmit data.

Raj Singh, Managing Director of Crystal Ball, said: “Fleets using vehicle tracking are facing a period of great change due to the phasing out of the 2G mobile network, which will make many hundreds of thousands of black boxes obsolete.

“As a result, they will have to swap out redundant 2G devices in hundreds of thousands of vehicles, while installing new systems that will use 4G.”

Singh said it is now vital that companies check how ‘future-proofed’ their fleet tracking systems are. He added: “If you are bringing new vehicles on fleet and are paying for the installation of 2G-based vehicle tracking, that system will need to be changed during the lifecycle of the vehicle, as the network is being phased out and replaced with 4G. And any existing vehicles with 2G black boxes will be affected too.

“It means that now is the time to reassess your vehicle tracking system and provider. Not doing so could mean a costly retooling further down the line.”

Both Vodafone and EE have announced they will sunset their 2G networks in 2025 (within the lifecycle of a vehicle going on fleet this year), while O2 and Three UK have said 2G will be phased out by 2033 at the latest – but this will be sped up by a successful roll-out of 5G across the UK.

It’s not just an issue for UK-based businesses – those companies with a pan-European fleet operation will be faced with varying amounts of 2G coverage. For example, some operators in Switzerland and Ireland have already turned off their 2G networks.

Even now, mobile providers are detuning the UK’s 2G network, so coverage is already reducing which means vehicles and data can ‘disappear’ off the map, or vehicles appear stationary for long periods. As a result, fleets are already losing real-time visibility thanks to these data blackouts, which are having an impact on day-to-day operations.

With 2G being turned off it now falls to 4G, rather than 3G, to be the network standard for IoT (the Internet of Things) including the latest, advanced vehicle tracking systems.

Singh added: “We’ve been in contact with our customers to ensure they are already upgrading to 4G to ensure continuity of service, and to future-proof their businesses as they bring vehicles on fleet, but there are still many tracking providers who rely only on 2G black boxes for data transfer.

“Any company operating vehicle tracking to maintain fleet visibility, security and safety will need to upgrade to an enriched solution utilising 4G devices in order to maintain data reporting.”

Singh stresses that with such a once-in-a-generation change, it is also the perfect time to reassess what functionality businesses really need from tracking systems.

He said: “The small packets of basic data provided by 2G boxes may well have done the job previously, but 4G gives fleets the opportunity for far more insightful, enriched interactions through better, more detailed data, and the ability to introduce new tracking innovations too.

“The benefit of 4G is the ability to create a telematics ecosystem featuring cameras integrated with tracking, scheduling, digital checklists, defect reporting and driver behaviour monitoring, giving managers control and visibility over their fleet like never before.”

Crystal Ball’s SmartCam fleet dashcam solution, with cloud-based video recording and tracking, has already been in operation for five years, is installed in many thousands of vehicles, and is proven to already deliver all of these advantages. With 4G capability, it will protect and future-proof your fleet for years to come.”

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