While you don’t always need the latest and greatest tech gadgets, there are times when the need to upgrade is essential. This is the case for many people, with cellular networks phasing out the 3G standard. Older smartphones will lose most of their essential functions, including the ability to make and receive calls and texts.
The 3G shutdown will also affect many car models that rely on a network connection for features like GPS, voice assistants and emergency call services. Tap or click here for more details on how your car may be affected.
It doesn’t stop there, either. The shutdown will impact virtually any connected device running solely on a 3G network. Read on for details and tips on how to avoid being left behind.
3G is going extinct in 2022
With billions of smartphones out there, many people will first feel the impact of the 3G shutdown. Cellular networks began deploying 4G LTE networks in 2010 and phone manufacturers followed with compatible models.
More than a decade later, the three biggest providers have announced they’re phasing out 3G networks in 2022:
- AT&T said it will shut down 3G networks in February.
- Verizon said it will pull the plug on 3G on December 31.
- T-Mobile said it will shut down Sprint 3G networks on March 31. T-Mobile’s own 3G networks will be gone by July 1.
There’s only so much wireless spectrum and infrastructure out there, so the old must be cleared to make way for the new. As 3G phases out, newer 4G and 5G networks will see improvements in performance.
If you use an iPhone 5 or older, you’re out of luck. The same goes for Samsung phones preceding the Droid Charge. If your Amazon Kindle uses AT&T’s Whispernet service, it’ll also be bricked.
Luckily, many cellphone companies are offering special upgrade incentives and pricing if you need a new phone. Check with your provider for any available 3G retirement plans. They can also tell you if your phone will be affected.
Did your car make the list?
Newer cars are adapting 4G and 5G connectivity for safety and convenience features. That’s not to say you’ll have to ditch your 3G-only capable vehicle. In some cases, you may be able to get an update, though you may be charged for it or even face a subscription fee.
Popular car models from major manufacturers will be affected, including the 2014-2017 Acura MDX, 2013-2018 Audi A4/Allroad, 2018-2020 Honda Accord (Touring trim), all Lexus models produced from 2010-2017, Tesla Model S vehicles produced before June 2015, and the 2013-2017 Toyota Camry, among others. See a more comprehensive list here.
Beyond phones and cars
Virtually any connected device running solely on a 3G network will be affected by the shutdown. Even with Wi-Fi support, use will be limited. The FCC lists tablets, home security, smartwatches and medical devices among the impacted groups of devices. If your 3G device uses cellular connectivity as a backup when its wired network connection goes down, it will also cease to function properly.
Some of the newest medical devices still run on 3G and even 2G networks, since they are cheaper to produce. Contact the manufacturer of your device via their official website or phone number. If you have to upgrade, make sure that 4G support is included.
The FCC’s Lifeline program can assist low-income consumers with phone and internet services with a discount. Go to fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers for more information.
The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides a discount of up to $50 per month for broadband service. A one-time discount of $100 for a computer or tablet is also available. Tap or click here for our report on the program, including eligibility requirements.
The change is coming whether you like it or not and it’s coming soon. Start getting ready now.
🚨 What it means for you
The 3G shutdown will be far-reaching and impact a lot more than just your cellphone. If you have older internet-connected devices at home, expect at least some of them to lose important features that rely on a cell connection.
✅ Use a connected medical device? Contact your doctor or the manufacturer to check if there is any upgrade you need to make now.
✅ As with any big development in the tech world, you can bet scammers will jump on it. Be wary of emails, texts and letters from companies saying you need to take action. A reputable company will never ask for your personal details unprompted. If you receive a notification, contact the company through another means to confirm it is legitimate.