You may have heard about mobile carriers rolling out new 5G services, but did you know that part of this rollout necessitates the retirement of 3G service?
If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, it may rely on 3G networks. Mobile carriers are shutting down 3G service to make room for 5G and other more advanced network services. As a result, phones that rely on 3G service will not be able to make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911, or use data services. This change affects 3G mobile phones and certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE.
What other services may be impacted?
In addition to older mobile devices, some home security systems, life/medical alert systems, vehicle SOS services, and other tablets that rely on 3G are also impacted. If you have one of these services, particularly, a medical alert system, it is important that you reach out to your provider to determine if it is impacted by this change.
Can I still make emergency calls from a 3G phone once the 3G phase-out occurs?
No. If your device uses the 3G wireless spectrum, you will not be able to make 911 calls on the device after the 3G phase-out occurs. It is critically important if you rely on an older device as a backup in the case of a medical or other emergencies that you make sure that your device does not rely on 3G.
When is this happening?
The timing varies by company, but companies are beginning to shut down service already, and anticipate that service will be completely shut down in the following months:
– For AT&T Customers – the shutdown will be completed in February 2022
– For T-Mobile Customers, the shutdowns vary by company and product type:
o Sprint’s 3G CDM will be shut down by March 31, 2022
o Sprint’s older 4G service will be shut down by June 30, 2022
o T-Mobile 3G will be shut down by July 1, 2022
– For Verizon Customers, the shutdown will be completed by December 31, 2022
– Many non-major carriers (such as Cricket, Boost, Strait Talk, etc.) also use the major carriers’ networks to provide their services and will be impacted by these dates too.
What do I need to do?
Contact your mobile carrier to see if you are impacted by this change. Your mobile carrier should be reaching out to individuals that they know are impacted by this change, but this may not happen if you bought your device independent of your phone carrier. Check your carrier’s website. Many of them list devices that will no longer be supported after the 3G networks are shut down. Some devices need a software update/upgrade to be able to support 4G LTE.
Where can I get help? Reach out to your carrier to see if they can help by providing a new device or have recommendations about a new device. If you are relying on a medical alert, home security, vehicle SOS system, or other tablets that uses 3G, reach out to the provider to see what options you have available. If you need help getting a new mobile device, you may be eligible for an upgraded device through the Lifeline program. Please check out the Lifeline website here: https://www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers. In addition, you can get help with affordable broadband service through the new Affordable Connectivity Program that provides a discount on eligible broadband services. You can learn more about the Affordable Connectivity Program here: https://www.fcc.gov/acp.