By Russ and Tiña De Maris
As the quest for faster and faster cellular-based services continues, some changes may affect you. The three major wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, are shutting down certain cell service features some have counted on for years. Are you—or someone you know—going to be affected?
Blame it on 5G
The switch to 5G networks is on the top of the list for carriers. To free up bandspace, older generation 3G is being turned off. For some, the 3G cellular shutdown may come as early as this month.
- AT&T is pulling the plug on its 3G network this month.
- T-Mobile users will see an end to 3G cell service in phases. Equipment issued originally by Sprint will stop working March 31. T-Mobile originated 3G UMTS stuff will “stop talking” July 1. And T-Mobile supported Sprint LTE network equipment will croak on June 30.
- Verizon says its 3G CDMA network will “decommission” no later than December 31, 2022. While the “Can you hear me now” folks have said they were going to pull the plug on their 3G network cell service on two earlier dates—then recanted—they say they’re sticking to this deadline.
You may actually have 3G equipment—and not know it
While most folks have already migrated to 4G and even 5G equipment, there’s still plenty of 3G stuff operating. Got an older internet-connected tablet? It could be 3G connected—for the moment. Other equipment, too, will be squelched, including some medical equipment that utilizes internet connections. Some “Smart” watches that will suddenly go dumb. You might have a 3G “mobile hotspot” for internet access. And vehicle emergency help systems may also be clobbered.
The latter could affect General Motors vehicle owners who have OnStar. Got a GM built in 2015—and even newer? Some of those units are 3G cell service based. OnStar says it’s trying to let people know by verbal bulletins that play on OnStar equipment. You can also check it out on your OnStar website.
A few out there are using that popular AT&T MOBLI device. Originally designed to plug into a vehicle’s OBD port, it offered uncapped, unlimited 4G access for just $20 a month. Those who were “grandfathered” when AT&T stopped the plan could still be using one. Trouble is, while it is a 4G device, it also uses 3G for some purposes. When AT&T shuts down 3G this month, your MOBLI will quit working. There are said to be work-arounds, involving swapping your SIM card to another mobile router, but you’ll need detailed instructions and codes.
And while some make fun of the “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials, listen up. Do you—or someone you love—have a Personal Emergency Response System? Trade names like Life-Alert, Medical-Alert, and Fall Monitor are being affected. Some of these use 3G cell service connectivity, and WILL NOT be connected when their carrier shuts down 3G. You’ll need to check with the manufacturer to see if a given device will stop alerting.
10 million 3G phones still out there
Do you have kinfolk or others who aren’t actively connected to the cellular world? They still might be affected. For years we couldn’t get the mother-in-law to use a cell phone. But she did keep a “cellie” in her car’s glove box—just in case. She knew she could dial 9-1-1 if her car broke down. Senior support group AARP says there are upwards of 10 million folks in the U.S. who still possess a 3G phone. They’ll all go mute by year’s end.
Cast your mind back a bit. You might actually have a device that’s 3G cell service dependent. And even if you don’t, you probably know someone that does. Take a few minutes and make sure they’re taken care of.