Carriers Are Killing off 3G for More 5G

A 3G device no longer connected.

As technology continues to grow, 3G is becoming more and more obsolete. While 4G surpassed its predecessor, the third generation of wireless communication still has a notable amount of users. In 2019 according to a study by OpenSignal, there were 30 million 3G only users. This is due to a variety of obstacles including lack of access to a 4G plan nor a 4G device but it goes to show that while many are anticipating faster speeds from the fifth generation, some have yet to make it to the fourth.

This among other things is what makes the news that America’s major carriers are going to be shutting down 3G to make room for 5G spectrum, such a big deal. Carriers are anticipating the significant increase in data that their networks will be transmitting and are preparing their networks to handle the extra workload. As AT&T put it a statement, “To better support the high data usage on our network, we are sunsetting our 3G network to boost capacity for next-generation technologies.”

These disruptions could be inconvenient to many Americans but as technological life cycles routinely go, the old must die so that the new may live. The automobile replaced the horse and buggy, Netflix replaced rental stores, streaming replaced physical copies, and so on and so forth. Each major carrier is planning its own timeline and method of shutting off its 3G services. Take a look at how you may be affected by the impending 3G shutdowns on the horizon:

  • AT&T: By the beginning of 2022, subscribers should expect its 3G networks to be shut down.
  • T-Mobile: While there is no set timeline, the company is planning to shut down its 3G capabilities over the next few years. This will have an even wider effect to consumers due to the company merging with Sprint and acquiring its customers in the process.
  • Verizon: Subscribers can expect the company to shut off its 3G network before the end of 2020.

Subscribers of all of these networks should prepare and due to each provider no longer activating 3G devices, an upgrade would seem inevitable. Luckily, while it may take a while before every market gains 5G access, there are plenty of opportunities coming to consumers. 

AT&T and T-Mobile have already unleashed 5G nationwide networks. Verizon is waiting for demand to rise for a 5G network but is positioning itself to unleash its nationwide coverage. This is further evidenced by the major waves it made this summer at the FCC’s mid-band auction, along with DISH. Speaking of DISH, its wireless division acquired Boost Mobile this summer and will face a fine greater than $2 billion if it does not cover at least 70% of America with a 5G network by June 2023. With 5G networks continuing to grow, fixed wireless access powered by 5G coming into play, and growing demand for 5G, 3G subscribers should find plenty of alternatives that offer a faster experience with better capabilities sooner rather than later.

Source: Light Reading