In the early 1980s, the first wave of wireless telephony standards was rolled out in the US. This innovative first step towards the mobile networks we now enjoy was dubbed 1G, and it was capable of handling audio transmissions over the air for many users at once.
However, 1G was an analog technology, and it was made obsolete in 1991 by its digital successor: 2G. 2G also marked the birth of SMS text messaging as it allowed for data transfers to take place.
Although 2G represented a great improvement in mobile capabilities, 3G would overtake it as early as 2001, more than tripling data transfer speeds and throughput. However, even 3G has been outdone by the widely-adopted 4G network (soon to be bested by the ongoing 5G rollout), and its days are now numbered.
What does this mean for most cell phone users?
With 3G being phased out, many cellphone users may be concerned about how yet another shift in technology could affect their budgets. The good news is that the 4G network will continue to exist for some time, and most consumer smartphones are already designed to support 4G data transmission standards.
Phone users whose phones rely solely on a 3G connection to function properly are most likely to be adversely affected by the removal of 3G options. Without support for 4G technology, your phone could end up relegated to the legacy 2G network which remains active, in some cases, as a working fallback.
Providers looking to make the leap from 3G to 4G and beyond have recommended that consumers look into getting a phone that is compatible with both 4G LTE and HD Voice in order to avoid service lapses and complications.
Will 3G phones be obsolete?
In many cases, as providers shutter their 3G networks for good, only customers with existing plans that use 3G phones will continue to have access to the network. However, providers such as AT&T have clarified that their 3G network will cease to function completely, and those with incompatible devices will have to find a suitable replacement.
This issue is projected to have a wider effect on a lot of smart devices that also rely on 3G networks to communicate with one another. Unfortunately, replacing them all could be This also applies to postpaid and prepaid service plans. Incompatible devices are likely to become obsolete in the near future as far as data usage and network connectivity are concerned. If your device is 3G only, it would be a good idea to plan ahead for the eventual shutdown of the network and purchase a compatible phone.
What should you do to avoid having your service disrupted?
As 3G networks are systematically phased out, there will be a growing need for new devices to replace old, 3G-only ones. If you choose not to seek out a suitable cell phone upgrade that can function on the 4G LTE network, then you may be faced with sudden service interruptions at inconvenient times.
Purchasing a new device can be as easy as paying a visit to your chosen mobile service provider and setting up a swap. However, if you choose to get your new cell phone independently, you will need to pay special attention to the band compatibility it has.
Additionally, you should make sure that your newly-acquired, 4G LTE-compatible phone is also compatible with your carrier's SIM cards. AT&T provides a helpful Although the decision to discontinue the use of 3G network technology has been unanimous among providers, their approaches to this shift differ substantially. Not all providers will be rushing to turn off their 3G network — instead, the shutdowns are set to be staggered based on each company's readiness to make the move.
A variety of factors are at play in deciding when companies can pull the plug on their 3G networks, including reluctance of their existing user base to migrate from their current phones to new ones and unique business dealings (such as T-Mobile and Sprint's merger) with specific network maintenance terms.
Consulting with your carrier is the best way to know for sure when the change will ultimately be made. However, press releases, service messages, and sitewide alerts provided by the following carriers have helped drill down approximate dates at which each of their respective 3G networks will be discontinued:
Verizon 3G Shutdown Date
Initially slated to be discontinued at the end of 2019, Verizon's 3G network shutdown plans have repeatedly been put on hold, leading to much unneeded confusion among their customers. At this point, their 3G network is now indefinitely being maintained.
AT&T Shutdown date
AT&T has specified that they intend to take their 3G network off of the market by early 2022. Unlike Verizon, their projected plans have remained fairly consistent so far, with no foreseeable setbacks standing in the way of the network's impending shutdown. It's worth mentioning that your phone must be compatible with their HD Voice service as well.
T-Mobile Shutdown date
January 2021 was defined as the original shutdown date for T-Mobile's (merged with Sprint) UMTS 3G network. However, it's now anticipated sometime in 2022.
By January, 2022, Sprint's CDMA 3G network is set to be discontinued. This more or less coincides with AT&T's 3G deactivation plans. However, T-Mobile has specifically mentioned that their 2G network will also stop working in December of 2022.
Tracfone 3G shutdown date
Tracfone users can anticipate their carrier's 3G services to go down at the same time as Verizon's because of Tracfone's use of Verizon's network to provide 3G connectivity.
For now, Verizon remains ambiguous about the ultimate end of life date for their widespread 3G network. Therefore, Tracfone users should be safe to keep using their 3G phones for the time being.
The sudden changes in cell phone network technology that are underway have the potential to shake up many happy users' routines. However, you can certainly navigate these changes by keeping up with your carrier's notifications and planning out your next new phone purchase.