The major mobile carriers are retiring their 3G networks in 2022. Here is what you need to know.
Small and midsize businesses often do not have the time and resources to keep up with the latest versions of mobile devices being offered, so they tend to hold on to older models. And why not — if the devices work, using the money elsewhere makes sense, especially in tough economic times.
However, if those older mobile devices are using 3G, they might not work the next time you try to use them. That’s because the 3G network, which debuted in 2002, is being phased out in 2022.
“Mobile carriers are shutting down their 3G networks, which rely on older technology, to make room for more advanced network services, including 5G,” according to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “As a result, many older cell phones will be unable to make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911, or use data services. This will affect 3G mobile phones and certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice).”
The FCC is not mandating that the mobile carriers shut down their 3G services. Each carrier is free to decide if it wants to retire older networks and when to do so.
The three largest US mobile carriers have decided to decommission their 3G services. AT&T will be shutting down its 3G network in February 2022. T-Mobile, which initially planned to phase out Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by December 31, 2021, has extended the deadline to March 31, 2022. Users of its other networks have a bit more time — June 30, 2022, for Sprint’s LTE network and July 1, 2022, for T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network. Verizon is giving its 3G users the most time — until December 31, 2022.
Other Devices Are Impacted, Too
Cellphones are not the only wireless devices impacted by the 3G phaseout. It affects any mobile device that uses a 3G service, including older e-readers, tablets, smartwatches, and medical devices.
Even vehicles are affected. “A large number of new cars made in the last decade, even some in the 2021 model year, were built with their connected services running on 3G,” said one car guru. “That includes things like in-nav traffic and location data, Wi-Fi hotspots, emergency call services, remote lock/unlock functions, smartphone app connectivity, voice assistants, and even concierge services. With few exceptions, most of those features in most of those cars will no longer work by the end of 2022 when AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all pull the plug.”
The Time to Check Is Now
If older mobile devices are being used in your business, now is the time to check whether they are using 3G networks. If so, you will need to check with your mobile carrier to see if it plans to discontinue its 3G service in 2022. What you can do if you have impacted devices will depend on the device.