If we think about our own everyday use of 4G, or even 5G on our mobile phones, the switch from 3G has been almost seamless. Whilst these networks are available across the consumer world, they are not yet as well deployed across the wider Internet of Things (IOT) landscape. Within the bus industry specifically, there are of course many devices that still communicate directly from the bus via the 3G mobile network.
How will a switch from the 3G to 4G and 5G networks impact our industry and what can operators do now to prepare? As always, we’re here to help.
What do we know so far about networks carriers ending their 3G support next year?
With the 3G network making way for faster and more versatile 4G and 5G mobile technology, we’ve been informed that network carriers will be shifting their dependency on the 3G network to these next generation systems. With this focus, comes a need to free up the frequencies from 3G and reduce the cost of maintaining the 3G network. As a result, the network carriers have announced that they will not be able guarantee 3G network availability after 2022. The 3G network will still be available throughout 2022, but if any faults occur with the infrastructure (for example masts), the carriers have advised they will be unable to guarantee supporting maintenance after this time.
What does that mean for operators?
If operators haven’t addressed this before 2023, the expectation at Ticketer is that we will still be able to manage data information flow around ticket management and sales for operators. We won’t, however, be able to predict any introduced latency due to the potential impact of coverage changes in some areas. The most direct impact would be live access to real time information and location data. Rest assured that everything is stored on our Ticketer ETMs, and will be fully functional whilst off-line, and as soon as the bus regains connection, the Ticketer ETM will send through all the data to the back-office. However, if your operations are dependent on real time information about where each bus in your fleet is at any one time, that data would not be transmitted should the bus remain in an area with no 3G network coverage. In situations with significant removal of network coverage, where your fleet may run without a signal for a longer period, it can have more of an operational impact.
How can operators prepare for it?
In terms of preparation, now is the time for operators to think about how they will maintain the connectivity for ticket machines, and other on-bus equipment dependent on 3G, across their fleets.
If you’re an operator, the best thing we can advise is to consider all the pieces of equipment on your bus that rely on communications, if they depend on 3G and how reliant your business is on this connectivity. How many SIMs are currently used onboard your fleet? Then please speak to us here at Ticketer about the options available – we’re in this together and we are ready to help.
We’re told every cloud has a silver lining, is there one here?
Of course there is!
The 4G and 5G networks will offer better coverage than the current 3G network, and improved capacity to serve a higher number of devices within one area, at any one time. They also offer higher speed and reduced latency. With that in mind, this case for change presents an opportunity for our industry to accelerate ‘Connected Bus’ thinking and to provide opportunities to future-proof operations.
Whilst the network shift is something that is being imposed on our industry by the network carriers, we have been working hard to help come up with solutions to preempt any potential issues on the horizon. At Ticketer, we are defining a range of solutions that can overcome the 3G concern, help future-proof and deliver operational efficiencies. Ultimately, we are here to help operators operate better – it is our key priority. We believe that this presents a case for change and an exciting new horizon in terms of what a Connected Bus could offer. It opens up new possibilities of operational management across all the various amount of equipment in play on any one singe bus. Potential consolidation of equipment and communication could save both time and money.
The new network focus will accelerate the discussions around operating a Connected Bus, where hardware and software solutions are integrated to provide a more seamless operation – and passenger experience. It provides an opportunity to automate manual processes and to create value that is better than the sum of its parts, by combining equipment and systems so they can benefit from each other. What if operators could integrate their ticketing systems with on-board CCTV and telematics? Imagine the improved solutions this Connected Bus prospect could provide.
And it doesn’t stop there, it’s much more than just consolidating data communications. Think of the improved data packages you could have without relying on multiple SIM providers.
The future vision is that buses will be manufactured with the physical infrastructure wiring already in place, minimising the complexity of installations, and built with an architecture that very much is modelled around interconnectivity of components on a bus through a plug and play type of network. This work is something that is already happening in Europe with the ITxPT standard leading the charge, and we believe it will be introduced to the UK market over the coming year.
If you want to find out how Ticketer can help future-proof your business, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.