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Heads up! Carriers are killing off some cell service

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

mikotolino on flickr.com

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.

Related

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mike henrich
7 months ago

I got a letter from ATT around Christmas stating the upgrade and that I would be a getting a new phone on them. I had a Galaxy S7 (some S7s are 4/5g, mine wasn’t). I did some research on the “upgraded free phone” and from what it seems, they would send out whatever they had and some were actually a downgrade. I ended up getting an S10 for free. Not all change is bad.

Megan Edwards
7 months ago

I had to get a new phone because my carrier was canceling older services. Loved my flip phone but now beginning to like my smartphone.

CLeeNick
7 months ago

Unfortunately, just as when cellular services turned off analog, this means wide swaths of sparsely populated areas of the US will have zero service. We recently traveled across northern Arizona, where towns are few and far between, having switched to Visible wireless about two months ago. We make that journey often, and quickly noticed hundred-mile plus stretches of road (which did include small towns) where we had once had service with Verizon, that did not have service with Visible, even though Visible is part of Verizon (but much cheaper). Turns out, upon investigation, that Visible never supported 3g, and the “dead” areas only have 3g service. This wasn’t a “deal killer” for us, and we are pretty confident in our equipment, but the inability to call, text, or otherwise communicate with the outside world may be of concern to some travelers. Either way, knowing that Verizon is killing off 3g anyway means there’s no reason to go back to their much higher priced service.

John Koenig
7 months ago

Yeah; and my buggy whip sees VERY little use these days.

A Pseudonym
7 months ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Not if you’re Amish…

Scotty H
7 months ago

Also, some pet tracking devices use 3G service. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make sure your pet tracker doesn’t operate on 3G

Maurizio Taglianini
7 months ago

Thank you Russ & Tina but the picture from mikotolino on flickr.com only shows 1st generation no smart phones, most people have already upgraded years ago 🙂

chris
7 months ago

“Verizon says it’s 3G CDMA network..” Oops. 

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

Thanks, Chris. Fixed. I correct literally hundreds of typos, etc., every week, but occasionally an errant apostrophe (or something else) slips past me. 😯 Take care. 😀 –Diane

Rob
7 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Apostrophobic is what my editor used to call this affliction.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Haha! Thanks, Rob. Yep, if I’m paying attention I catch them. Just not paying attention that time. Take care. 😀 –Diane

chris
7 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

and you know I’ll find it! LOL

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

Works for me, Chris! I just hate it when I miss something like that. Dang! But thanks for having my back, or my punctuation, or whatever. 😆 Have a good evening/night. 🙂 –Diane

R.C.
7 months ago

The cell carriers, especially Verizon, are shoving 5G into peoples faces and bodies. Why haven’t I seen anything on where FCC was sued, last year by Children’s Health Defense in California. FCC lost that suit. They were to disclose the dangers of 5G and I have not seen, personally, where FCC or (Verizon or ANY cell carriers) have complied but, are racing to force everyone into the 5G world. You can read this by going to childrenshealthdefense.org and looking for the article. 5G is not safe and they need to advise people, as per court rulings. After that, people should have the choice to have 5G or not have it. ( In my opinion).

Rob
7 months ago
Reply to  R.C.

You 100% have the choice to have 5g or not. And it’s the carriers choice to offer 3g/4g or not. That’s how choice works. Just like I have the choice to ignore anything Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (the man behind the Children’s Health Defense) and his merry band of conspiracy addicts tell his flock.

Last edited 7 months ago by Rob
CLeeNick
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

You may want to investigate your ideology. Airlines have clearly stated that 5g WILL affect flight safety, as it interferes with the bandwidth aircraft utilize. The FAA, and the guy currently residing in the White House, concur. Perhaps you do not understand how radio waves work. Whether you have a 5g phone or not, and whether you believe 5g will have direct health repercussions or not, 5g service WILL affect you.

Last edited 7 months ago by CLeeNick
Rob
7 months ago
Reply to  CLeeNick

It has nothing to do with ideology. I am not sold on 5g either and need to read more about it and hear more about it from people who aren’t the marketing arm of a cell company or RFK Jr. But my comment was more about RC saying people should have a choice. And they 100% do.

Mike Sherman
7 months ago
Reply to  CLeeNick

5G is safe, used now near hundreds of airports around the world with no problems. We can learn a lot from other nations that seem to be way out ahead of us, especially with facts, not fear, concerning covid.

billh42
7 months ago

Just checked on my GM OnStar. By 12/2022 all GM 2G/3G service will be discontinued. OnStar systems on 3G will be updated with an over the air software upgrade. Older systems on 2G will require a hardware upgrade. The hardware upgrade is currently on hold due to chip shortage problems. Refer to https://www.onstar.com/us/en/support/3g-network-shutdown for more information.

CLeeNick
7 months ago
Reply to  billh42

Good info, thank you. I checked it out and found it odd that GM specifically mentions that some 2015 vehicles will be affected, but no mention of 2014 or before. We have a 2014 GMC Sierra pickup and a 2015 Chevy Malibu. This warrants further investigation!!

Carol OBrien
7 months ago

How do you know if you have a 3G phone?

chris
7 months ago
Reply to  Carol OBrien

It’s 20 years old.

Bob Weinfurt
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

My phone is 6 years old and 4G. It stopped functioning on 2/1. Had to get a 5G to have service.

Lindalee
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinfurt

Your carrier didn’t send you a new sim card to make your 4g phone still function? I’m with Boost Mobile and that is what they did! My roommate and I both had to do the sim card update thing but our phones are still working great! I love Boost (formerly Virgin) Mobile!

Jeanette Walker
7 months ago

GPS systems that update automatically by wif?

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago

Are you talking about automobile GPS systems, phones, or hand held units? The only ones I could see maybe being affected by this are the GPS systems on our phones, but even then, it’s the satellites, not the cell service that makes them work. I think . . .

CLeeNick
7 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I see no reason why true GPS, that utilizes the global GPS satellite network, would be affected. That’s an entirely different dedicated system and technology that has nothing to do with communication or phone service. Only what I call “faux GPS”, in other words systems that utilize wireless land-based phones towers to triangulate position, would be affected due to the elimination of the 3g signal.

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