Sometimes improvements come with consequences. A little ironic, isn’t it? While it is unfortunate, sometimes in order to bring in the new we must go out with the old. When it comes to telecommunications and surveying the same thing applies.
With the new 5G being rolled out, this means that providers are phasing out their 3G network. This creates a large problem in that all the surveying instruments that use 3G service will be unable to connect to a network. It must be very troublesome to be out in the field with a GPS, only for it not to receive a connection. However, before we go over the solution, we must first understand what this wireless system is to a degree.
The original G network (1G) was first originated back in 1980. Each new generation of telecommunications comes with a much faster speed than the previous one. 5G is expected to be rolled out in 2019 and is said to be one hundred times faster than 4G. 4G, in fact, was implemented back in 2009. Looking at the cycle of this network transformation, a new generation usually is implemented about every ten or so years.
As the new generation gets used, service providers will tend to discontinue the service of a previous generation. This is mainly done to cut costs and push for usage on a more efficient system. Currently, this is what Verizon is doing to make way for 5G. They are so far the only service provider to give an end date to their 3G coverage. Other service providers do have apparent sunset dates for when they will phase out 3G from their networks. This means the end of 3G is near and that surveyors need to look at ways to switch to a 4G coverage. Thankfully, there is a way to avert a shutdown in your service.
There is, however, a way to prepare for the phasing out of 3G. Hexagon currently offers their SMARTnet subscription service, which includes an AT&T SIM card. This is 4G compatible, which means the SIM card can be placed in a wifi box. Also, it can be installed in their current, modern 3G modems in the GPS or data collectors. The survey instrument can then continue to have service in the field by connecting to the wifi box, by using the included SIM card. One must make note, however, if their instrument can use the wifi box. This might depend on the age of the instrument. If this is the case, it is suggested to upgrade to a new instrument. Currently no instrument has 4G capabilities, thus increasing the importance of a wifi box. This is sure to not be the case for long, but data collection in the field cannot wait.
Additionally, one can upgrade to a current GPS receiver and/or data collector. While older versions of these devices have AT&T (or any other service provider) modems, for example, these modems could have connectivity issues. Older total stations might also have trouble connecting to newer hardware, demanding a possible upgrade, too. The benefit of upgrading, however, is that these upgrades have better wifi capabilities. This provides a setting where data collection in the field is not halted. It should be noted that one can use their older instruments and switch providers to keep their 3G service for a while. Although this can be done there are sunset dates. This would be more of a short-term solution.
Although the phase out is a problem that is occurring during the implementation of 5G, it does not mean it cannot happen again. Since this wireless system typically upgrades every ten years the problem can happen all over again. A little anticipation is required in order to prevent another situation for when 6G arrives and 4G is phased out. Although, that could possibly be ten years down the line, or sooner, there should never be a moment when data collection in the field is down.
When it comes to changing technology and innovation anticipation is key. This is especially the case in the survey world. By not keeping up with the latest technology one can run into many problems, like their instruments potentially being inoperable. Using simile, imagine innovation is like a wave and a surveyor as a surfer. This would mean that in order to succeed one either rides with the tide or get washed away.
3G Emergency: Anticipation Is Key
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