Not all companies who track their vehicles need to worry about which cellular provider they use. Most don’t even know they may have a choice.
But if you do work in remote areas, you should pay attention and work with your GPS provider to ensure you get the right network.
I went to see ‘Mission Impossible’ today with my son and drove into town (Flagstaff) from our house which is in EXTREMELY bad AT&T coverage.
On the way home, I drove a couple miles around in our neighborhood to try to compare the reliability between AT&T and Verizon coverage.
My vehicle has both a Verizon-based device (labeled Rubicon) and an AT&T device (labeled Rubicon PNP).
We have a couple of internal mechanisms for determining how good the coverage ACTUALLY by:
- Viewing purported AT&T or Verizon coverage
- Showing ACTUAL cellular “lag” on a map
- Generating a report of ACTUAL cellular “lag” with a graph
Below is an actual AT&T coverage map showing the area where I typically lose coverage in “light blue” which is not ideal coverage. In the “dark blue” area, you can see there are very few places where the time for the device to report through the cellular network is more than a few seconds. In my area, you can see some “tall” pins which visually represent how long it took the device to report (which is really a measure of how far the vehicle had to move before forwarding that data once it recovers cellular coverage):
Note that the Verizon device (Rubicon) has a “pink” line and the AT&T device (Rubicon PNP) is in white. Verizon shows perfect coverage throughout (not pictured).
Here is how I pulled up the “lag report” version of the 3D map within GPS Insight:
[note this functionality is internal to GPS Insight support staff and is only available to end-customers upon special request]
Here is the display of my drive WITHOUT the coverage map. Notice that there are very few “tall” pins meaning very few “lagged” points:
Next I will run a quantitative analysis of today’s data, for just the 2 devices in this vehicle, after quickly creating a “Rubicons” vehicle group containing them both:
I can then run this (internal use) “Lag Report” on the “Rubicons” for today:
Note there is a “landmark” option where we could restrict the report to ONLY data within a certain area we define, such as a mine, or wherever a customer may be concerned about coverage. Also note above, that GPS Insight still thinks I am driving, since when I pull into my bad coverage and put the car in the garage, sometimes the final ignition off event doesn’t get transmitted until I drive back into coverage the next time I leave. This is normal behavior for poor coverage areas, and is unavoidable (unless you know enough to choose Verizon when purchasing in these cases, which is the point of this article).
Here is the output, showing 100% coverage for Verizon and 95.8% coverage for AT&T for today’s drive:
The AVERAGE time to report for Verizon is 2 seconds, whereas AT&T averages 7 seconds. The max for Verizon is 4 seconds, and for AT&T, the max times are 51 seconds and 3 minutes, for when the report reports within 1 minute or 10 minutes (we break it out into 1, 10, 30, 30+ minute “bands”).
Here is the past week, since I drove up to Flagstaff for vacation from Scottsdale, driving through notoriously bad AT&T coverage in the mountains (I know this because my iPhone is AT&T & worthless for that drive) — note that the percentage of < 1 minute reports is 100% for Verizon and only 83.7% for AT&T:
However, the week PRIOR to me leaving for vacation, driving around the more populated Scottsdale/Phoenix area, shows a much better 95.1% performance for AT&T vs. a 99.9% availability percentage for Verizon:
The moral of the story here is threefold:
BEFORE you purchase GPS Tracking devices for your fleet, make sure to determine A) if you have coverage issues in the areas your vehicles travel and B) whether or not you can afford to wait the minutes, hours, or sometimes overnight before the device reports in these areas.
If you may be affected, and aren’t sure, then make sure your GPS Tracking provider can provide not just multiple coverage options, but ALSO the tools to determine if there is a need for one coverage or another, as shown above.
As a point of reference, Verizon devices cost roughly $50 more than AT&T devices (due to additional modem and CDMA licensing costs). But that’s a onetime cost and will probably amount to less than 5% over the life of the device and service.
If that $50 keeps you from experiencing occasional cellular delays due to poor (typically) AT&T coverage, then it, and finding a company which provides the right coverage (e.g GPS Insight…), is certainly worth considering.