Mobile carriers are shutting down their 3G networks this year to make room for more advanced network services, including 5G.
As a result, some older cell phones and other devices will be unable to use data services and make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911. This change will affect 3G devices and certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice).
In addition to older phones, devices such as certain medical devices, tablets, smart watches, vehicle SOS services, home security systems, and other connected products may be using 3G network services. Devices that use cellular connectivity as a back-up when a wired internet connection goes down could also be affected. If you have a device that is not labeled, contact the monitoring company or other service provider to confirm how the device connects and whether your device may be impacted by the closure of 3G networks.
When will networks be shut down?
Consult your mobile provider's website for the most up-to-date information on 3G sunset timing:
- AT&T announced that it will finish shutting down its 3G network by February 2022.
- Verizon announced that it will finish shutting down its 3G network by December 31, 2022.
- T-Mobile announced that it will finish shutting down Sprint's 3G CDMA network by March 31, 2022 and Sprint's 4G LTE network by June 30, 2022. It also announced it will shut down T-Mobile's 3G UMTS network by July 1, 2022, but has not yet announced a shutdown date for its 2G network.
Even if you don't get service directly from one of these networks, your phone or device provider may use one of these networks.
What do I need to do?
Contact your mobile provider or consult your device provider's website for more information about their 3G retirement plan and whether your phone, or other connected device, may be affected. It is important to plan now so that you don't lose connectivity, including the ability to call 911.
Some carrier websites provide lists of devices that will no longer be supported after 3G networks are shut down. You may need to upgrade to a newer device to ensure that you can stay connected, and carriers may be offering discounted or free upgrades to help consumers who need to upgrade their phones.
Some devices may only require a software update to enable VoLTE (HD Voice) or other advanced services. If you purchased your phone independent of a mobile provider, you should be able to determine whether your device is 4G LTE (with VoLTE or HD Voice) enabled by checking your phone's settings or user manual, or by searching your phone's model number on the internet, to determine whether you need to purchase a new device or install a software update.
Resources from our partners:
- Plan Ahead for the Phase Out of 3G Cellular Networks and Service: Plan Ahead for Phase Out of 3G Cellular Networks and Service (Federal Communication Commission)
- 3G Shutdown 2022 (Texas Technology Access Program)
- 3G Network Shutdowns: The Impact on Older Adults (National Council on Aging)
- The End of 3G Issue Brief (National Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center)