By Terri Jo Neff |
The clock is ticking for the 3 million phones, tablets, and cellular networks in the U.S. which rely on 3G service, and it is expected to lead to safety and security issues starting in February.
Most service providers initially announced plans in 2019 to decommission their 3G platforms which date back to 1998. The change will allow companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon to concentrate on improved 5G service.
The 3G sunset deadline has been kicked down the road several times, but 2022 marks the end of that road, with AT&T being the first planning to sunset its 3G service sometime before Feb. 22. AT&T has been warning customers for months to switch over to a 4G or 5G plan, even going so far as to temporarily disable some customers’ accounts until the customer speaks with a service rep.
When a 3G network goes dark, it means the loss of calling features -including 911 service- from phones that have not updated to 4G or 5G plans before the shutdown. Particularly vulnerable will be children and domestic violence victims who are typically provided older, cheaper cell phones with 911-only capability.
But cell phone and tablet users are not the only ones who will be impacted by the loss of 3G service. Drivers will also be at risk.
Most major automakers have continued to rely on 3G software for GPS systems, emergency-call functions, and phone hookups through recent year models. Without a software update, or even possibly a hardware update, those functions will not work.
And it is not only manufacturers like General Motors that are scrambling. High-end automakers like Audi, Porsche, and Tesla have confirmed several popular features will be unavailable without 3G.
However, despite the AT&T shutdown set to begin in February, several Honda, Nissan, Porsche, and Volvo owners have not made been able to obtain the necessary update to their vehicles’ AT&T network software.
The discontinuation of 3G will also impact an estimated 1 million home and business security systems across the country installed since the mid-2010s. But ensuring the system continues to work won’t be as simple as changing a cell phone plan with a provider.
“The cellular communicator on your security system will need to be replaced to operate on the new networks,” according to Vector Security. “Your home security provider should be willing and able to answer all of your questions about the impact on your system, and should have a plan in place to prevent disruption.”
While AT&T is initiating its 3G sunset in February, T-Mobile won’t be far behind. In March, the company will begin a four-month sunset schedule, starting with a large number of 3G customers from its merger with Sprint. By July all of T-Mobile’s own longtime 3G customers will be shutdown unless switched to new service plans.
Verizon, which is believed to have more than 1 million customers on 3G service, has announced it will extend its shutoff plans until late 2022.