3G is shutting down and some of your most essential technologies may soon become unusable.
What guided the evolution of how we use, interact and communicate with technology 20 years ago will officially retire by the end of 2022, with major US carriers reallocating their satellites later this year. . In its place: 5G, the next-generation network that promises dramatically faster speeds than 4G LTE and a more unified system for expanding artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) .
So what does all of this mean for older hardware like cell phones, alarms, and GPS systems that thrive on the 3G spectrum? To put it bluntly, many network-driven features will become obsolete, presenting unforeseen dangers. Fortunately, there are steps you and your loved ones can take to safely transition from aging to evolving technology. In some cases, manufacturers can even breathe new life into your old gadgets through software upgrades.
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 an ever-changing landscape.
When do operators stop 3G?
While carriers have been planning for 3G to shut down since 4G LTE took over (and the prospect of 5G being another catalyst), the agenda has taken a break during the pandemic. Over the past two years, 3G-dependent services like home security systems and technology for the elderly have become more essential than ever, preventing telecommunications companies from pulling the plug. That is until 2022, with major US carriers finally relenting and setting new shutdown dates that span the entire year.
- AT&T is the first of the Big Three, shutting down its 3G network on February 22, 2022.
- T-Mobile has pushed back its 3G shutdown to July 1, 2022, after originally 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 shut down on December 31, 2022. The carrier has made it clear that “the date will no longer be extended.”
You can find more information regarding the shutdown of 3G networks on the FCC website.
Will my phone still work?
For most of the 3G era, smartphones enabled users to browse the web, share viral videos, update statuses and connect with people around the world. All of this is still possible thanks to 4G LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi networks. When 3G is disabled, the iPhone 3GS, for example, will not be able to make calls or send texts, but will still be able to connect to Wi-Fi. Fi to access Internet-based applications.
According to the CTIA, “less than nine percent of wireless connections in the United States are 2G or 3G subscriptions.” If you’re using a smartphone launched after 2014, you probably won’t experience any setbacks from the 3G shutdown. The same goes for flip phones released after 2017. Not sure what year your device was made? The best solution is to check with your local carrier, either in person or online, to see if there are any compatibility issues.
More: ZDNet’s top picks for cheap 5G phones
Carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon are also reaching out to 3G customers to help them upgrade to 4G and 5G service plans. We see trade-in offers and incentives that will trade your 3G-enabled phone to a 5G-enabled one for free. And for low-income consumers, the FCC’s Lifeline program will offer a discount on eligible monthly phone and Internet service, making conversion all the more accessible.
Generally, if you or a loved one is using an older phone, it’s your call to upgrade.
How will 3G shutdown affect my car?
As well as ushering in the smartphone revolution, 3G has played a fundamental role in the navigation and alarm systems we rely on in our daily travels. With faster and more reliable 5G in place, 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 which, when pressed, calls first responders via 3G. This too will lose its functionality.
Vehicles from popular automakers such as Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Hyundai, Dodge and others released before 2019 are susceptible to the issues mentioned above. According to Roger Lanctot, director of automotive connected mobility at Strategy Analytics, the main reason why new models are always equipped with 3G receivers is that car manufacturers save on manufacturing costs.
To stay ahead, you need to make sure your car supports or can get hardware upgrades to connect to 4G. As with smartphones, your best bet for staying current is to check your local car dealership. Although the modification may take the form of downloadable software or physical replacement parts, it will help keep your vehicle up to date and running, especially in times of danger.
Read more: Why 5G is a crucial technology for autonomous vehicles
How will this affect the security of my home?
Over the past few decades, home security and alarm systems have relied on 3G to communicate and monitor suspicious activity. With the shutdown of 3G, this line of communication between the home and the monitoring center of its service becomes non-existent, leaving single people and the elderly vulnerable.
Fortunately, during the pandemic, many home security companies have proactively migrated customers from 3G networks to 4G networks, ensuring that their services remain operational even after the 3G spectrum has been removed. Unlike smartphones and cars that require teardown or full 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 by phone or mail regarding the transition. Alternatively, services like ADT allow you to schedule a free appointment over the phone or on the website to initiate the conversion.
More: Our top picks for home security monitoring
Other technologies that will be affected
Apart from the categories mentioned above, there are a plethora of gadgets and services that rely on the older generation network that you might not have been aware of. 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 tracking
- Connected watches
- E-readers (Kindles, Nooks, etc.)
- GPS trackers (including for pets)
- Marine Safety Devices
At the end of the line
With the impending decline of 3G, take a moment out of your day to check your devices (and those of your loved ones) to make sure everything is up to date and ready for the future. As technology advances and new advancements replace old ones, businesses and customers must learn, adapt and embrace change so that the technology we rely on every day can continue to protect us and inform those who surrounding us.