GSM vs Satellite for refrigerated transport monitoring

Demystifying the truths and half-truths.




Although GSM covers 98% of the “population” it misses a great deal of the land mass.  If you deliver from coast to coast GSM is not the answer for you.  If you deliver 3 or more hours away from metro areas GSM is probably not the answer for you.  In Monitoring Oz’s view GSM should only be used for suburban areas.


Satellite for data, not positioning has 100% land mass coverage. You just need line of sight to the sky.

Real time data vs delayed

In order to alleviate the issue of coverage black spots it has been noted that some companies time stamp data to make it appear as real time.  This is done by sending data history when unit has returned to the coverage area.  In cases like east coast to west coast this could be 10 hours plus.  During this time no alarms can be received and no control can be carried out.  Unless you were constantly watching the unit you may not notice.

Real time data vs delayed

When using satellite if there is a delay it is minimal due to the optimal coverage provided.

Real time data vs predicted

Another solution some GSM providers use is alarm prediction.  This means if the data suggests there was going to be an alarm in future, when there is no GSM coverage an alarm is provided from the server side.  There are many alarms that cannot be predicted, many of them are shutdown alarms, or and possibly even worse you received a “predicted alarm” send out a technician at call out rates and the unit is operating perfectly.

Real time data vs predicted

As satellite coverage is almost 100% satellite has no need to predict alarms.


Worst case scenario
One example might be you had an intermodal container travelling from Perth to Adelaide.  There are hours of travel time with no GSM coverage and there has been a derailment meaning the train has stopped. 

Being that you have no GSM coverage;
·         you wouldn’t be updated on fuel status
·         you wouldn’t be able to change to start/stop operation mode to save fuel
·         you wouldn’t be alerted of the shutdown or the temperature out of range

·         You would lose the load
·         Insurance saving for installing a monitoring system could be affected
·         Reputation and brand can be hurt
·         Worst of all the possibility of a lost customer


Hopefully this has given you some answers to question the sales spin when it comes to GSM short comings.

PDF available here


Telstra Coverage map
Telstra GSM Coverage