Posted on Mar 28, 2018 by Chad Sylvester
Learn why 3G cellular trail cameras aren't a good buy.
Plain and simple, wireless trail cameras are the current craze and the future of the trail camera market. We’ve noticed that shift over the past 18 months with more and more people desiring and talking about cellular trail cameras, along with new companies and products joining the marketplace specifically as a cellular option.
Most of the cellular capabilities and technology in the trail camera space are simply repurposed from the wireless industry. Because of that, one could say we, the trail camera marketplace, are behind the times as we see new products hitting the shelves with technology from several years ago. From a consumer standpoint you should be paying very close attention to the wireless world, how carriers ( Verizon, AT&T, etc) are evolving their technology and networks, and how that may or may not affect your existing cellular trail cameras or cameras you plan to purchase in the near future.
Without getting too technical, first understand that most viable options in the cell cam market are carrier specific for a couple reasons.
- Each carrier utilizes different bands to build out their network coverage.
- Hardware designs need to utilize specific bands.
- Carrier’s require lab testing and certification before allowing any product to run off their networks.
So with the majority of products being carrier dependent let’s take a look at the major carriers’ future plans and how their networks may affect your cellular trail cameras.
Verizon is without a doubt the leader in the wireless industry boasting the broadest infrastructure and carrying the nation’s largest area of coverage. Over the last several years, possibly a decade or more, Verizon has set the bar for all other carriers to follow in both the race for fastest networks and broadest coverage. They are typically the first to market with new network technology which also means they are typically the first to decommission older technology to make way for the new.
As of Jan 1st of this year, the project to decommission their 3G networks was put into action to make way for future developments. Don’t panic… it isn’t going to happen overnight. However, this should take place in the coming months and seems to carry a target completion date in 2019.
With AT&T constantly nipping at Verizon’s heels for the nations “best” network they too are preparing for future network expansions. While AT&T hasn’t released any official plans to decommission 3G networks they have stopped permitting new 3G devices from entering their certification lab, which went into effect last June. So naturally, the time is coming for AT&T’s 3G network as well. You may have noticed recent product releases from major trail camera manufactures reflecting this, yet there are still smaller players bringing AT&T 3G products to the market.
While T-Mobile isn’t a giant player for trail camera manufactures, there are a few trail camera models that offer plans through T-Mobile networks. With T-Mobile pushing to be relevant in the wireless space, their CTO Neville Ray, was initially the first to speak of cutting 3G coverage for the expansion of LTE networks back in early 2017. Again, it appears T-Mobile will follow in the footsteps of Verizon and AT&T to complete this in 2019.
Somewhat of a regional player, US cellular actually operates the 5th largest telecommunications network in the states. We mention them only because they are a viable option throughout the Midwest and trail camera manufacturers have noted the US cellular customer base living in areas other carriers have ignored. With 90% of the US Cellular customer base already utilizing LTE networks, it doesn’t seem they are too concerned with focusing on decommissioning existing networks as any information to do so was difficult to find.
So what does that mean for anyone who has a cellular camera on a 3G network? Well…sometime over the next several months your camera may lose service rendering it a non-cellular standard trail camera.
In a nutshell, if you are in the market for a wireless trail camera you have a few things to think about:
- Which carrier provides the best service in your specific area?
- What network the trail camera runs on?
- If the trail camera is a 3G device what is the network lifespan provided by the carrier?
- Is the price tag of a 3G cellular camera worth only being able to use its capabilities for a limited time?
And for those who are currently utilizing 3G trail cameras make the most of your cameras and start planning for the future.