Many of us have evolved — or perhaps devolved — to the point where we live and die by the strength of the cellular connection on our mobile device. Ironically, it’s not necessarily to call anyone, but simply to stay in the communication loop via text, social media, etc.
As someone willing to go with the technology flow, I value the accessibility and convenience of today’s smartphones and tablets. But I’m also old enough to appreciate a time when we were smarter than our not-so-mobile devices.
That time has passed and we as consumers are now dialed in (pun intended) to the gigabyte-monitoring, free WiFi connecting culture delivered by our cellular and wireless providers.
Safe to say, signal strength is often taken for granted and a reliable modem is as much a necessity in some tractor cabs as air conditioning. That’s why some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had with precision farming companies lately haven’t revolved around new product introductions, but rather an upcoming change in the cellular landscape, which some say could have a massive impact on the ag industry.
More specifically, Verizon announced that it plans to phase out its 2G and 3G networks by 2021 and transition customers into its LTE network. This isn’t a new revelation and other providers are following suit. But as the sunset dates near, it’s got the attention of GPS and auto-steering suppliers in the ag industry.
As of spring 2016, Verizon noted that 92% of its wireless traffic traveled over its LTE network, but several ag companies note that some rural customers, including farmers, are still reliant on the 3G network.
Says one representative from an RTK correction service provider, “There is nothing to fill that void until they replace that 3G with something else. None of the modems are going to support that new technology that’s in the pipeline and nobody knows if that new technology is even going to support cellular RTK.”
The representative adds that it’s an issue few are talking about in the ag industry right now, but it could pose a threat and GPS companies should keep it on their radar.
Some suppliers have already transitioned their technology with next generation modems, but with the clock ticking, it will be interesting to see if and how the change impacts the increasing mobility of farmers.