Carriers are closing down 3G networks in a final transition lớn 4G LTE and 5G. Some devices và services won"t make the jump. Here"s what to lớn know.
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David Lumb is a di động reporter covering how on-the-go gadgets like phones, tablets and smartwatches change our lives. Over the last decade, he"s reviewed phones for TechRadar as well as covered tech, gaming, & culture for Engadget, Popular Mechanics, NBC Asian America, Increment, Fast Company và others. As a true Californian, he lives for coffee, beaches and burritos.
Two decades ago when most phones just made calls, the first 3G networks ushered in the era of wireless data. They made it possible to lớn use apps on our phones, integrate GPS systems with our cars và do lots of other tasks on the go. But as carriers transitioned to lớn 4G LTE networks và now to lớn 5G, they"re shutting down 3G for good this year. As a result, some devices and services will thất bại service.
Of the three largest carriers, AT&T went first by shutting down its 3G service on Tuesday, Feb. 22. T-Mobile will follow on March 31, & Verizon will wrap it up on Dec. 31. (For the plans of smaller carriers like Cricket and Boost, see below.)
How the shutdowns will affect you depends on a few things. If you have a phone released no earlier than 2015, you should be fine. If you"re unsure, each carrier has a full list of devices that will continue to operate on their current network. If you will be affected, your carrier should have told you by now (a process they began years ago) and offered to replace outdated devices with new ones that connect khổng lồ 4G LTE networks.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said the number of people using 3G-only phones today is small, only in the hundreds of thousands. He expects that many affected people haven"t upgraded their 3G phones either because they"ve forgotten to bởi vì it or they"ve kept an old phone stashed in a glove compartment for emergencies.
If you"re in that group, you will need khổng lồ act. Older devices that won"t be migrated to 4G LTE or 5G will become functionally useless when 3G goes away for good: They"ll still power nguồn on, but won"t be able to connect khổng lồ a network. And it"s not just phones that will be affected. The shutdowns also will hit tech like tự động navigation systems, alarm systems, early e-readers and other mạng internet of things (IoT) gadgets that have relied on 3G networks for data.
What to vì if your phone is affected by the 3G shutdown
If you have a 3G-only phone or device that"s about to chiến bại connected functionality, the easiest way to lớn avoid the issue is to upgrade lớn a newer device, as the Federal Communications Commission has advised.
This may mean buying a new phone that connects lớn 4G LTE và 5G networks. Don"t worry, if you"ve signed up with a major carrier, they likely have incentive programs that cover some or all of the costs to upgrade lớn a new device. Và if you qualify, the FCC"s Lifeline program could discount your phone service. You don"t need khổng lồ buy a fancy phone either. Carriers sell a range of devices, including old-school flip phones, that connect lớn modern networks.
If you don"t want khổng lồ upgrade your device và are signed up for mobile service, make sure to liên hệ your carrier và cancel the line associated with it to avoid paying for a phone line you"re not using.
Plenty of 3G-only non-phone devices, from alarm systems to solar panels to tự động hóa navigation systems, may also thảm bại service. If you"re unsure about your device, keep reading and liên hệ the manufacturer.
What if I have a 3G device other than a phone?
There are several types of older devices that rely on 3G networks to tải về data, like first-generation Amazon Kindles with cellular connectivity, home alarm systems, IoT devices và others.
In 2019, there were as many as 80 million 3G devices in use in North America, according khổng lồ RCR Wireless. Companies have worked to replace their IoT systems and upgrade them to lớn 4G, shrinking the total khổng lồ under 5 million today, according khổng lồ Entner.
You may not realize that you own & rely on a 3G-only device, like an alarm system, but there are easy ways khổng lồ upgrade. ADT Security, for instance, has its own page dedicated khổng lồ helping customers update from 3G to lớn 4G, while third-party security system providers in your area may also offer upgrade services, like this page from the Southern California-based bay Alarm.
If you have one of those devices, try contacting the manufacturer lớn see if you can upgrade to 4G connectivity or swap it for a comparable product that connects lớn 4G LTE or 5G. That"s if the company is willing to support its customer base, but you may have to lớn upgrade at your own expense.
These devices should still work over Wi-Fi if they were built with such connectivity, but given that many relied on 3G to lớn deliver service, it"s likely that they"ll thất bại functionality when they thua thảm access to mobile networks.
When is the AT&T 3G shutdown?
AT&T shut down its 3G network on Feb. 22. Phones và devices that vì chưng not tư vấn Voice over LTE (also called VoLTE or HD Voice) and connect khổng lồ 4G LTE networks won"t work with AT&T.
AT&T has a menu of devices that are compatible with its network, with phones newer than and including the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy lưu ý 4, Motorola G6 Play, Google px 2, LG V10, LG G3 Vigor, hãng nokia G10, OnePlus 6T và Sony Xperia 1. The list also has tablets, newer than & including the máy tính bảng ipad 3, Lenovo xe máy Tab, Microsoft Surface 3 và Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.
Subscribers can nâng cấp their phone whether they have a monthly or prepaid contract by transferring their SIM thẻ to a new device & following instructions on AT&T"s tư vấn page.
If AT&T customers don"t migrate to lớn the carrier"s 4G network, they"ll still be able to connect lớn data if they agree lớn roaming charges while using rival T-Mobile"s network.
When is the T-Mobile 3G shutdown?
T-Mobile is shutting down its 3G CDMA network that it inherited from its 2020 merger with Sprint on March 31. The carrier had planned to lớn shutter it on Jan. 1 of this year but delayed it for three months. That gave Boost Mobile, a carrier under Dish that uses Sprint"s 3G network, more time to lớn transition customers off the antiquated service.
Customers with phones that only work on Sprint"s 3G CDMA network may be eligible lớn upgrade to a new 5G handset at no cost via special offers, which can be checked after logging in.
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Those using T-Mobile"s 3G network, which includes owners of GSM phones và the aforementioned AT&T roamers, will be supported until it is retired on July 1, according to lớn a T-Mobile support page.
T-Mobile is also taking the opportunity to lớn shutter Sprint"s 4G LTE networks, which will go offline on June 30. Owners of such phones need only swap their Sprint SIM card for a T-Mobile SIM card & ensure voice over LTE is enabled.
When is the Verizon 3G shutdown?
Verizon plans to lớn shut down its 3G CDMA network on Dec. 31.
The carrier announced its plan to shutter its 3G service in 2016. And after setting and revising end dates several times, the carrier has settled on sunsetting its service at the end of this year. This is later than other carriers because Verizon must tư vấn 3G service for OnStar tự động navigation through 2022, Recon"s Entner said.
Verizon has a list of devices that won"t work on its 4G LTE and 5G networks, lượt thích 3G basic phones and smartphones as well as 4G phones that don"t support HD Voice (VoLTE). The devices that are compatible with its network include the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Apple máy tính bảng ipad 3. Customers with 3G-only phones & devices can log in lớn their Verizon account to view their tăng cấp eligibility and giao dịch on new phones.
When are shutdowns for Cricket, Boost and other smaller carriers?
As these carriers run on bigger provider networks, the smaller carriers rely on the bigger carrier timelines for ending 3G service.
For instance, Cricket Wireless operates on AT&T"s network, so its 3G service ended on Feb. 22. Cricket customers will need a 4G LTE phone that is compatible with HD Voice and can kiểm tra its in-depth tư vấn page for more info.
Others are a bit more complicated. T-Mobile sold off its subsidiary, Boost Mobile, lớn Dish Wireless but still provides it with the 3G service that"s shutting down.