3G networks will be shut down next year. Here’s what that means for the Mainers.

If you have owned your cell phone for more than five years, you may need to upgrade or replace it soon as the old 3G network technology is due to be replaced by faster technology starting next year.

The 3G network, or third generation mobile network, launched in 2001 and brought fast internet access to cell phones, creating a boom in consumers owning phones for streaming music, playing games and all kinds of uses. other than talking. Some 20 years later, this technology has been slowly replaced by newer 5G networks with much faster download speeds for new applications like telemedicine and artificial intelligence. They can also support many more users simultaneously without slowing down the network.

That’s good news for consumers who want to stream movies and music faster, but it’s bad news for those with older phones that will no longer be usable. The shutdown, which will be phased throughout next year depending on the service provider, will affect other electronic devices using 3G networks such as medical alert devices, smartwatches, vehicle SOS services. , home security systems, tablets, and devices that use cellular connectivity as a backup when a wired connection goes down.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the change.

Why are 3G networks being phased out?

According to the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates wireless carriers and has a “plan ahead” primer on its website.

When will the change take place?

The change will begin on January 1, 2022, although the completion of the complete phase-out of 3G services varies by company and is subject to change.

AT&T plans to shut down its 3G service by February 2022. Details of its plans, including affected phone models and how to upgrade, can be found on its website.

Verizon plans to shut down its network by December 31, 2022 and has posted a list of affected models and services on its website. A company executive estimated that less than 1% of its customers nationwide still access its 3G network. Some of the phone models listed on its website as 3G are the Samsung Galaxy S4 or earlier and the Apple iPhone 5 series or earlier.

T-Mobile, which manages the Sprint and T-Mobile networks, said it will complete the shutdown of the Sprint 3G network by March 31, 2022 and the Sprint LTE network by June 30, 2022. It also plans to shutdown the Sprint 3G network by March 31, 2022. ” stop the shutdown of T-Mobile. 3G network by July 1, 2022. It has yet to announce a shutdown date for its 2G network, although competitors AT&T and Verizon no longer support 2G. More details are on its website.

The FCC has said the dates could change, so customers should check with their mobile service provider to track the network expiration date and to see if their phone is affected.

It is not known how many Mainers are still using 3G service, but GSMA Intelligence said only 4% of wireless connections in 2020 were on 3G networks.

What actions should consumers take?

Planning is now important, as the loss of 3G connectivity also means that older cell phones will not be able to make or receive calls or texts, including 911 calls.

Find out if your mobile device, be it a phone, medical device, or other critical service, will be affected. This can be done by contacting your mobile operator or checking their website.

Some devices may only need a software update, for example, to activate a feature called HD Voice or Voice over LTE, which is needed on the 5G network. You can check your phone’s cellular data settings to see if you have Voice over LTE.

Consumers should call their service provider for medical alert devices, home security systems, and other services to make sure they will always work.

Those who decide not to buy a new phone should talk to their carrier about canceling their plan and ask them to do so without penalty. Otherwise, they can continue to be billed.

A resale market for older phones is unlikely, so consumers should take them for recycling at a phone store or reuse them as an alarm clock, gaming machine, or other use.

Is there help available?

Replacing a device that can’t access the faster 5G network can be expensive, but there is help. The FCC’s Lifeline program offers a discount on telephone service to eligible consumers. The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit offers a temporary rebate of up to $ 50 per month for broadband service to eligible households during the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadband could be used for audio and video calls over the Internet if a person no longer wants a cell phone. Operators may also offer discounts, discounts or free upgrades on phones.

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