Data delivery via cellular networks is evolving quickly in rural America. From voice to email to the Internet, the cellular data system and the devices that receive the signals are dropping in price — phones and data plans are being offered that make adding a data package a virtual no-brainer.
In last week’s reader poll, nearly 60% of respondents have purchased a data plan with their cell package. Checking email, texting, and availability of the Internet certainly accounts for the lion’s share of data plan usage, but more capabilities for business related use of cell technology is coming.
Logistics programs for tracking the movement of equipment using cell technology are getting a lot of attention. And at Farm Progress, the state of Iowa demonstrated a cell signal based RTK network that allows free access to RTK correction using a receiver designed specifically for the task (of course, the user would need to purchase a data plan from a cell carrier). The manufacturer Leica has been on the front edge of this vision, but other manufacturers are working on it as well.
I’ve been chatting with manufacturers and agencies to get at the pros and cons of these networks. Some issues are logical — in network areas where there is good cell coverage, it can work well. Where the coverage is degraded by cell tower distance or terrain, it may not work at all.
There is also some question as to whether the growing rural traffic on cell networks could lead to inconsistencies in signal quality. Most reports are on the fence on this question, saying that while there doesn’t seem to be reason for concern now, that doesn’t mean there won’t be an issue in the future.
One thing is clear … there’s a lot of unexplored potential in cellular networks for rural America, and applications will only improve with time and technology. Something to keep an eye on as you plan future precision purchases, and something we’ll be reporting on in-depth in the months ahead.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us using the response box below.