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3G Phones: The ‘G’ Stands for Gonzo

If you still have a flip phone – and many people do – you’re likely on a 3G cellular network. It’s the same for anybody with an ancient smartphone. So, if you’ve been putting off that new phone purchase since, say 2010, it’s time to stop procrastinating. The 3G networks will be shut down this year, and there could be serious consequences.

As mobile carriers shut their 3G networks, many older cell phones will be unable to make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911 or use data services. This will also affect certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice).

It’s going to happen faster than you might expect. AT&T will finish shutting down its 3G network by next month. Verizon will finish its 3G shutdown by the end of this year. T-Mobile will finish shutting down Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by March 31, and Sprint’s 4G LTE network by June 30. It also will shut down T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network by July 1. If your service is from Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk or several Lifeline mobile service providers, keep in mind they use AT&T’s, Verizon’s, and T-Mobile’s networks.

To find out if your phone is affected, we urge you to contact your carrier as soon as possible. And if your phone won’t be able to handle at least 4G LTE, you’ll need to replace it. You may want to do that sooner rather than later because there’s already a shortage of phones – just like there’s a shortage of everything else.

The 3G shutdown will affect more than phones. Other devices, such as certain medical devices, tablets, smartwatches, vehicle SOS services, home security systems and other connected products may be using 3G network services. Devices that use cellular connectivity as a backup when a wired internet connection goes down also use these old networks. If the device is not labeled, contact the monitoring company or other service provider to confirm how the device connects and whether your device may be affected.

If you’re wondering why the old networks are being shut down, we’ll put it in perspective for you. First, it’s not like the phone carriers are moving at light speed to make you buy new devices. 3G networks are 20 years old, and the older 2G networks were not shut down completely until 2017. In technology years, those networks border on being prehistoric.

Second, newer technologies depend on moving more data at faster speeds to be reliable, and those include telemedicine, medical devices, enhanced systems that move your businesses forward, and the dawn of self-driving cars or safety enhancements for the cars you physically drive. The carriers need to use those parts of the wireless spectrum, which can carry signals over vast distances, to improve their service.

Third, 4G networks have been around since 2010. While they’re not ancient, we can see that they have a limited useful life. We can’t predict the future with precision, but we can reasonably infer from the history of technological development that a newer network (6G?) will come along faster than 5G did.

We almost always advise our clients to buy the most up-to-date technology. While it’s reasonable to assume you still have a number of good years left in a 4G-capable phone, you do run the risk of needing to replace it sooner than a 5G phone. If you still have a 3G phone, it’s obvious that you like to keep your phone as long as possible. But don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. If you want to save money, the iPhone 12 is Apple’s first phone with 5G capability. It’s already been superseded by the iPhone 13.

We can help you make sure your phone service can remain intact. We can guide you through the process to back up all the data on your phone and then help you decide which new phone will best meet your needs and budget. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.