3G is shutting down and some of its most essential technology may soon become unusable.
What drove the evolution of how we use, interact and communicate with technology 20 years ago will officially retire at the end of 2022, with major US carriers repurposing their satellites within the year. In its place: 5G, the next-generation network that promises considerably faster speeds than 4G LTE and a more unified system for the expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
So what does all this mean for older hardware like cell phones, alarms and GPS systems that thrive on the 3G spectrum? To put it bluntly, many of the network-driven features will become obsolete, introducing some unforeseen dangers. Fortunately, there are steps you and your loved ones can take to safely transition from aging to future-proof technology. In some cases, manufacturers can even breathe new life into their older devices through software updates.
Here’s everything you need to know about the “3G sunset,” how it will affect the technology you use, and what you can do to stay afloat in the ever-changing landscape.
When will 3G operators close?
While carriers have been planning for 3G shutdowns ever since 4G LTE took over (and the prospect of 5G being another catalyst), the schedule stalled during the pandemic. In the past two years, services that rely on 3G, such as home security systems and senior technology, have become more essential than ever, preventing telcos from going offline. That is, until 2022, when the major US airlines finally give in and set new shutdown dates that stretch throughout the year.
- AT&T is the first of the big three and shuts down its 3G network on February 22, 2022.
- T-Mobile has postponed its 3G shutdown until July 1, 2022, after initially planning for an October 2021 shutdown.
- Sprint, now merged with T-Mobile, will shut down its 3G network on May 31, 2022.
- Verizon’s 3G network will be turned off on December 31, 2022. The carrier has was cleared that “the date will not be extended again”.
You can find more information about when 3G networks are closed at FCC website.
Will my phone still work?
For most of the 3G era, smartphones allowed users to browse the web, share viral videos, update statuses, and connect with people around the world. All of that is still possible through 4G LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi networks. With 3G turned off, the iPhone 3GS, for example, won’t be able to make calls or send text messages, but you’ll still be able to connect to Wi-Fi to access Internet-based applications.
According to the CTIA, “less than nine percent of US wireless connections are 2G or 3G subscriptions.” If you’re using a smartphone that was released after 2014, you probably won’t experience any issues from the 3G shutdown. The same applies to foldable phones released after 2017. Not sure what year your device was made? The best solution is to check with your local provider, in person or online, to see if there are any compatibility issues.
More: ZDNet’s best picks for cheap 5G phones
Carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon are also reaching out to 3G customers to help them transition to 4G and 5G service plans. We’re looking at trade-in offers and incentives that will trade your 3G-capable phone for a 5G-capable one for free. And for low-income consumers, the FCC lifesaving program will discount qualifying monthly phone and internet services, making the conversion even more affordable.
In general, if you or a loved one is using an older phone, this is your call to upgrade.
How will the 3G blackout affect my car?
As well as ushering in the smartphone revolution, 3G has played a critical role in the navigation and alarm systems we rely on during our daily commutes. With the institution of faster and more reliable 5G, roadside assistance and emergency crash alerts are among the many network-based features that will be affected by the 3G shutdown. Many cars also have an emergency SOS button that, when pressed, calls for first responders via 3G. That will also lose functionality.
Vehicles from popular automakers such as Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Hyundai, Dodge, and more published before 2019 are susceptible to the issues mentioned above. The main reason newer models still carry 3G receivers, according to Roger Lanctot, director of automotive connected mobility at Strategy Analytics, is that automakers save on manufacturing costs.
To stay ahead of the curve, you’ll want to make sure your car supports or can receive hardware updates to connect to 4G. As with smartphones, your best bet for staying informed is to check with your local car dealer. While the modification may come in the form of downloadable software or physical parts, it will help keep your vehicle up-to-date and running, especially in times of danger.
More: Why 5G is a crucial technology for autonomous vehicles
How will it affect the security of my home?
For the past several decades, home security and alarm systems have relied on 3G to communicate and monitor suspicious activity. With the shutdown of 3G, that line of communication between the home and your service’s central monitoring station becomes non-existent, leaving people living alone and the elderly vulnerable.
Fortunately, over the course of the pandemic, many home security companies have been proactively migrating customers from 3G networks to 4G, ensuring that their services remain operational, even after 3G spectrum is removed. . Unlike smartphones and cars that require complete teardown or upgrades, adding 4G functionality to security systems is as simple as having a technician install an external receiver (usually a box or panel).
If you or someone you know is subscribed to a home security plan (ADT, Vivint, SimpliSafe, etc.), a customer representative should have contacted you by phone or mail regarding the transition. If not, services like ADT let you schedule a free appointment by phone or website to start the conversion.
More: Our top picks for home security monitoring
Other technology that will be affected
In addition to the categories listed above, there are a host of older generation network-dependent devices and services that you may not have known about. If you have any of the following, be sure to contact the manufacturer and ask what the next steps are. Depending on the age of the product, you may be eligible for a hardware or software upgrade.
- Medical alert devices (fall detectors, communicators, etc.)
- fire alarms
- inventory trackers
- Smart Watches
- E-readers (Kindles, Nooks, etc.)
- GPS trackers (even for pets)
- marine safety devices
With the 3G crash looming, take a moment out of your day to check your devices (as well as those of your loved ones) to make sure everything is up-to-date and future-proof. As technology advances and new advances replace old ones, businesses and customers alike must learn, adapt, and embrace change so that the technology we rely on every day can continue to sustain ourselves and those around us. safe and informed.