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Pure satellite trackers versus GSM GPS trackers using phone towers – Pros and Cons

There is much confusion around which technology delivers best value for money for a business owner. Depending on what is expected from the system, here are some points to work with and to help you make an informed decision.

Pure satellite trackers

These are systems that talk directly to satellites and don’t require phone towers at all. This sounds like a perfect system that everyone wants to have. Why limit yourself to phone towers and a telecom network coverage—right?

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Pure satellite trackers, GSM GPS trackers or dual mode satellite trackers?

What no one tells the buyer is that the pure satellite systems don’t work in towns and cities. If most of your business is in towns and you occasionally have business is the outback, then the satellite system is not good for you. The phone towers send a powerful signal via airways to reach all the phones and modems. The towers send a strong signal that will disrupt the satellite link and make the pure satellite equipment useless in towns. The pure satellite system works only well in open country well away from towns and cities. It is a pure satellite system for pure outback. This is what needs to be explained to buyers. So if your equipment is stationed most of the time in the outback then this is the system you need. There are a few other points to consider. The pure satellite system requires the antenna to be mounted on top of your vehicle or asset to have a clear view of the sky. It can’t be hidden away out of sight since it will not be able to communicate with the satellite. Also the reports that the system generates is very limited to one or two locations per day. It is mostly used for emergency signalling in pure outback. No fancy reporting like kilometers driven or work hours is available. The system is also more expensive to purchase and ongoing cost is usually more expensive. But if you have to work in the outback and your life could be in danger then the most important factor is to have a device that can reach the outside world and can send help. Only under these parameters should one consider purchasing a pure satellite system.

GSM GPS trackers

This is a system that has two modems. One modem is to collect satellite coordinates or location of the device and the second modem is to send this data using phone towers to a server for further processing. This is the most common tracker on the market.

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Check that your devices are 3G capable – December 2016 is the deadline!

There are many trackers on the market. One point is very important: When purchasing these devices always ask if the device is 3G and 4G compatible. This is because the older 2G technology is being disconnected by end of 2016. Ask the supplier if the tracker works on UMTS or LTE technology and look for frequencies such as UMTS 850 MHz. If the supplier is saying quad band and talks about GPRS then it is 2G technology and of no use to purchase. Most supplier, will be honest and tell you openly what they supply. Some on the other hand, will say yes, they supply 3G SIM cards such as Telstra Next G and all is OK. No, it’s not OK as 3G SIM card can work backwards on a 2G modem and all looks good until the 2G network is disconnected. Then it will stop working.

The advantage of a new 3G/4G GPS tracker system is that the tracker will work in towns, or cities with no problem and work in most country areas where the Telstra network is available. Basically if you stay on sealed roads you should have coverage. If on the other hand you enter a gray zone – no cover area, the system will hold that information until it comes back into cover and then simply upload the information. This way you would not have any fall-out in reporting. If your business is such that most of your activity is in towns and occasionally you venture into the outback then this is the system for you. The reporting is extensive and the systems are usually much less expensive to purchase and run. You may even hide the system under the dashboard or seat. There’s no need to have a clear view of the sky. The tracker will work even if “ under cover “

Dual mode satellite trackers

This was the most exciting solution on the market a few years ago. Finally a GPS tracker that can work in any place without limitations. This tracker works real time in towns and outback. The dual mode satellite trackers work on the phone towers using a GSM modem and pure satellite if in the outback. It switches from system to system automatically. It was an expensive system to purchase well over $2000 per unit and running cost [GSM & satellite] around $100+ per month per unit. Large companies operating in the outback, purchased this system to cover their occupational health and safety requirements for field workers. What no one could expect is that the modem in these expensive systems was only a 2G modem. We find now that the telephone companies will disconnect the 2G network. This in turn makes these expensive devices into a pure satellite system that will not work in towns and cities. One now needs a dual mode system with a 3G modem. Now the companies that purchased this product find themselves having to go through a whole new investment. A promising solution to have all the technologies into one product has now turned into an expensive adventure. Taking into account that everyone is scaling back investments this may be a bad solution.

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Pure satellite systems get signal distraction in highly urbanized areas

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Future adapted and fully capable 3G 4G GPS units

Combination of trackers

This is a solution where you purchase two devices [3G GPS tracker and a portable pure satellite tracker]: The portable pure satellite trackers are a low cost device that fulfills the occupational health and safety requirements for outback workers. The 3G GPS tracker offers all the reporting and tracking one would expect.

This could be the best solution to stay on top of the ever changing technology.

If you would like more information on a specific solution please email David