If your phone, car, or home alarm system depends on 3G, you need to prepare for the shutdown.

Mobile companies’ 5G networks bring more speed and innovation to consumers, but there is at least one compromise: to open up the air to 5G, companies are shutting down older networks that many devices and services still use.

These old 3G networks were hailed as a revolutionary achievement in bandwidth and connectivity when they debuted in the US in 2002. Although 3G (short for third generation) began to give way to 4G a decade later, networks still provide the backbone for older mobile phones and a host of other devices.

In particular, the 3G network was chosen for devices that communicated with other devices over the Internet, including some fire and burglar alarms, roadside assistance services, and personal medical alert devices. And 3G has remained in use because the costs are low. Daniel Oppenheim, chief executive of alarm and security monitoring company Affiliated Monitoring, said that until recently, the components required to connect to 4G networks were too large and expensive for many devices, so 3G-only hardware continued to be widely used until until a couple of years ago.

However, it was no secret that 3G eventually became obsolete due to newer, more efficient technology that could transfer much more data. In February 2019, AT&T notified its business customers that it would shut down its 3G network within three years, forcing them, their suppliers and consumers to upgrade their equipment.

AT&T, which operates one of the two most extensive 3G networks in the country, has since set a firm shutdown date: Feb. 22. Verizon, which operates another carrier, plans to shut down its 3G system by the end of the year. T-Mobile plans to shut down the 3G networks it operates, including the network built by Sprint, between March 31 and July 1.

The Signaling Industry Communications Committee, a trade association representing companies such as Oppenheim’s, the FCC asked. delay the 3G shutdown until the end of the year, arguing that disruptions caused by COVID-19 prevented its members from upgrading an estimated 2 million consumer equipment. However, even if the date is pushed back, the end of 3G is near. Here’s what the shutdown could mean for you and what you should be doing now to prepare.

Who and what will be affected?

The most obvious victims of the 3G shutdown will be older phones, tablets and smartwatches that use 3G to connect to the mobile network. Most of these devices have already been consigned to the dustbin of history; to see if your device can survive the decline of AT&T 3G, consult a list that AT&T posted online. If it’s not on the list, you’re in trouble.

Other carriers face similar problems. Verizon does not offer a complete list of compatible devices, but posted examples popular phones, tablets and other devices that will lose connection. T-Mobile has not released details about the device; instead of, he pledged contact each customer who will be affected by the outage.

Keep in mind that a 3G Wi-Fi device can still run its apps and do just about anything you want, but only if you’re within range of an open Wi-Fi network and don’t mind making phone calls. through a Voice over Internet Protocol service such as Skype. In other words, your 3G phone or tablet will still work, but not as mobile.

Consumers in the US are changing their smartphones every an average of three years or less, suggesting that relatively few 3G phones are still in use. However, the life cycle of other 3G devices is much longer, including alarm and security systems that call emergency services in the event of a burglary, fire, carbon monoxide leak, or medical emergency.

If these devices or services do not work due to a lack of network connectivity, the consequences can be tragic. Oppenheim said the companies involved have been trying to replace their customers’ 3G-only equipment for some time now, but the pandemic has hampered their efforts in many ways. COVID-19 has reduced the supply of replacement parts and prevented their installation, he said, in part because some customers didn’t want workers to enter their homes.

As a result, he says, between 10% and 15% of those customers are not ready to give up 3G. Oppenheim said that either their service provider had not yet been able to update their equipment, or the customer had not responded to notifications sent to him about an impending problem.

Here’s another issue with a long product lifecycle: Many vehicles can automatically call for help after an accident or connect to a call center at the touch of a button thanks to the built-in cellular modem. But some of the modems of these cars connect only to 3G networks.

The most important of these services is automatic collision notification, which calls emergency services as soon as a collision is severe enough to trigger the airbags. This is especially valuable when the driver is knocked out or incapacitated and there is no one around to help. Consumer Reports made a list last month of vehicles to be affected; According to the magazine, “Some cars just need a software or hardware update, while others, including cars from Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Jeep, Lexus, Nissan, Ramas well as Toyota will lose touch forever.

One example is BMW, which says about 1 million 2018 and older vehicles will be hit. Jay L. Hanson, a spokesman for the automaker, said some of these vehicles will be eligible for a free upgrade and the company has contacted those owners. Otherwise, the ConnectedDrive and BMW Assist services that came with the car will simply no longer work.

Another example is the transport industry, which uses electronic recorders to enforce driver safety regulations and help track containers. Replacing all 3G-dependent devices is a big and time-consuming job that has been difficult strong demand for trucking services and a long-term shortage of microchips.

This is only an incomplete list. Any device older than a few years that connects wirelessly and directly to the Internet may need a software update or cellular modem replacement to continue connecting after 3G is turned off. For example, alcohol monitoring. ankle bracelet worn by some offenders to ensure they no longer drink after release.

Why is this happening?

Cellular networks transmit data over radio waves leased from the federal government. Although 3G and 5G use different technologies to send and receive data, they operate on the same frequencies. But according to AT&T, they can’t coexist on those frequencies — radio waves meant for 3G clients can’t be used for 5G clients either.

AT&T told the FCC in August that serving even a single 3G user would require the company to back up a significant portion of its radio waves in the range of 850 megahertz, even though 3G clients share only 4% of AT&T’s 3G network bandwidth. The 3G shutdown will allow the company to double the number of 850 MHz radio waves dedicated to 5G. told the FCC in Octobersignificantly improving customer service.

What should be done?

In most cases, devices using 3G chips provide services that people have to pay for, whether it’s the ability to make calls or call emergency services automatically. So the companies selling these services are already reaching out to their customers to help them keep their services.

In other words, if you’ve been affected, you’ve probably already received a letter or email (or possibly several of them) telling you what the problem is and what options you have. If you haven’t answered yet, it’s best to do so now.

Considering how much junk mail and spam we all receive these days, you may have thrown those messages away without thinking about them. So if you have a mobile phone, smart watch, tablet, medical alert device, or car that is over 3 or 4 years old, or you have an alarm service, contact your phone company, service provider, or device manufacturer to find out if whether you will be affected, and if so, what options do you have.

There is a lot of information on the net. Start on your mobile company’s 3G page – here are the links for AT&T, T Mobile as well as Verizon – and work from there. The single most helpful resource for phone, tablet and watch compatibility seems to be list compiled by AT&T.

Many companies selling alarm systems and monitoring services are warning that they won’t be able to upgrade all of their 3G-aware equipment by the time AT&T shuts down its 3G network this month. The FCC is still considering the signaling manufacturers’ motion for a delay; you can state your views through agency electronic document management system, with reference to dossier no. 21-304. If you think the shutdown is coming too soon, you can call your representatives to USA house or Senate weigh.

How much will it cost you?

An AT&T spokesman said “the vast majority of customers” will be able to get a free phone replacement for their 3G device. The company also offers 5G phones starting at $72.

T-Mobile says Sprint 3G network customers will be able to upgrade to a new device that will work on T-Mobile’s 4G and 5G networks “for free.”

However, people with prepaid phone services are in a different boat. Mobile companies don’t usually offer free phones with their services without a contract, so anyone with a 3G phone will need to buy a new one for prepaid services like Verizon. Direct wireless conversation.

If you have a 3G-enabled tablet or smartwatch, it looks like you’ll need to buy a replacement if you want to keep connecting over cellular instead of Wi-Fi. None of the carrier websites offered free replacements on that front.

In terms of alarm systems and medical alerts, Oppenheim said the service provider is responsible for upgrading the equipment to adapt to changes in the networks – “by the way, this is a huge cost for the company, not for the consumer.” It’s similar to a cable TV service, he says, where the cable company is responsible for resolving any problems with their cable boxes.