Federal officials are warning consumers that 3G network service is being retired in 2022 and it may cause older phones, medical alert devices and other systems to stop operating.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that mobile carriers will be shutting down their 3G networks, which rely on older technology, to make room for more advanced network services, including 5G.
“Similar transitions have happened before. For example, some mobile carriers shut down their 2G networks when they upgraded their networks to support 4G services,” the FCC said.
The change will affect 3G mobile phones and certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice), according to the FCC.
Many older cell phones will be unable to make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911, or use data services.
Other devices that use 3G connectivity, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smartwatches and home security systems, will also be affected.
The nation’s three major wireless carriers — AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile — have each announced that they plan on discontinuing 3G service in favor of 4G (LTE) and 5G service next year.
According to the FCC, AT&T will discontinue service in February, T-Mobile/Sprint will discontinue service between March and July, and Verizon will discontinue service at the end of 2022.
Most users of these services will be notified directly by the carriers if the discontinuation affects them.
The National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) said that users of older phones used for 911 only purposes may not be notified if they do not have active service with the provider.
“It has long been the practice of some organizations for the homeless or domestic violence shelters to provide clients with older phones with no service, since those phones could still be used to call 9-1-1 in an emergency,” the NASNA said.
Low-income individuals who are concerned that their 911 only phones may no longer be supported should consider applying for service through the FCC’s Lifeline Program, the NASNA said.
Information regarding eligibility and participating providers can be found at www.lifelinesupport.org.