3G Network: Ready or not, the sunset is here.

3G networks will soon go dark. T-Mobile is set to shut down its 3G network in January 2022, AT&T’s next in February 2022, and Verizon goes last in December 2022. As we know, most distributed generation solar projects depend on these 3G networks to enable remote monitoring, so in order to maintain continuity of operations, all 3G devices need to be replaced with 4G LTE compatible devices before these network shutdowns occur. System owners who don’t make the upgrade in time might face ramifications, such as: 

  1. System underperformance  
  2. Missed customer billing
  3. Lost SREC credits
  4. Money & tome-consuming verbal & legal disputes

In other words, upgrading legacy 3G devices is something we all have to do.  

If you don’t have a plan in place yet, you still have time, but be careful. This issue fits perfectly in a procrastinator’s blind spot. First, it’s a mandatory sunk cost which makes it feel less like an upgrade and more like a chore to put off. The cellular carriers have also pushed the date of the 3G sunset back a few times which clouds the imperative, and for anyone who isn’t savvy about electromagnetic spectrum frequency allocation (link) it might just feel plain annoying that carriers can force us to migrate to different network bands.   

But they can, they do, and they will again.   

Over the life of any renewable energy project you’ll occasionally have to migrate to different network bands, physical swap out of units will be necessary every few years, the data aggregating systems will be consolidated on a continuous basis, etc.    

NovaSource has been through this cycle before. The 2G retrofit in 2015 was trial by fire for us: even though we thought we had a head start on those upgrades, we ended up racing to meet our deadlines. Lesson learned. This time, advance planning by our project management team, supply chain team, and field operations team have ensured our customers a smooth transition. 

Advance planning also allows for bundling of services, which is an opportunity for real savings.

Advance planning also allows for bundling of services, which is an opportunity for real savings. If you have any planned maintenance activities across your asset portfolio, you can complete the 3G retrofits at the same time, eliminating the need for separate retrofit truck rolls. Your planned maintenance service could include annual preventive maintenance, visual inspections, component upgrades, or just backlogged corrective maintenance. Learn more about our services.

If you have a portfolio of older solar assets but you haven’t completed your 3G retrofits yet, now is the time to develop a detailed plan with your O&M provider. To mitigate the risks of current supply chain constraints, ordering your upgraded devices should be your first priority. From there, we’d recommend that you look for opportunities to bundle maintenance activities, thus streamlining your schedule and lowering your costs. 

If you’re looking for assistance with your portfolio upgrades, NovaSource has 20+ years of experience, with 450+ field service technicians currently active across the U.S., backed by the most robust operational support teams in the industry. In other words, we’re ideally positioned to be of service to you.  

In any scenario, the 3G sunset is coming and if we’re not your O&M provider, we hope you’re in good hands. No one wants to be caught in the dark. 

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