Dad’s old flip phone isn’t working anymore. In 2022, support for the 20-year-old wireless network standard of 3G service is ending. Those old Trac phones, original Kindles, older iPads and classic Chromebooks won’t connect to the cellular data networks. They will still operate with Wi-Fi but won’t receive SMS text messages or have the ability to make phone calls, including to 911. Why is this transition necessary, and what will replace it?
Mobile carriers in the United States began shutting down 3G networks in January 2022.
The 3G service relies on older technology, and shutting these networks down makes room for advanced network services such as 5G. Each carrier instituted different timelines for their shutdown.
ATT stopped all 3G networks in January 2022.
T-Mobile shut down its recently acquired Sprint 3G network at the end of March, and Sprint’s 4G LTE network will be out of service by the end of June.
T-Mobile’s own 3G service terminates the first of July.
Verizon’s shut down of 3G service will conclude in December 2022.
Cellular Technology is Constantly Changing
Mobile carriers must periodically close out older services like 3G to free up spectrum and infrastructure to support new services, such as 5G. Mobile carriers enjoy the flexibility to choose the technology and services deployed and are responsible for deciding when older services are decommissioned in favor of newer technology that consumers demand.
Mobile Carriers Have Limited Access
To airwaves and generally license them at a substantial price from the FCC. Because 3G assumes much less computing power than what modern devices are capable of, it’s much less efficient than 4G or 5G. For example, 5G is 23x more spectrally efficient than 2G. This means each hertz of valuable airwaves can handle 23 times the number of users with the newer technology.
The Process of Implementing 5G Service Has Not Been Smooth
It has been slow, and 5G hasn’t been distributed evenly throughout the U.S. For most people, however, the transition is more of a whimper than a bang, as the majority of Americans have newer mobile devices that transition without any interruption to service. There are items other than cell phones that operate on 3G networks including home alarm systems, fire alarms, ankle monitoring devices used in law enforcement and even some mobile medical equipment.
As of January 1, 2022, an estimated 9% of mobile devices in the United States still relied on 3G technology.
It is vital that individuals and business owners perform a thorough inventory of mobile connected devices to make sure equipment or software upgrades are completed to ensure continued safety. Mobile carriers have notified customers of the 3G sunset via postcard, email, and written notification included with bills. If you have questions about the sunset of 3G technology, contact your mobile service provider right away.
Businesses of all sizes should prioritize reliable communication.
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