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3G networks shut down forever: How can this affect your phone?

Two decades ago, when most phones only made calls, the first 3G networks ushered in the era of wireless data. They made it possible to use apps on our phones, integrate GPS systems into our cars, and perform many other previously unimaginable tasks. But as carriers transitioned to 4G LTE and now 5G networks, 3G will shut down for good this year . As a result, some devices will lose service.

Of the three largest operators, AT&T was the first to shut down its 3G service on February 22. T-Mobile continued to operate until March 31 and Verizon, the one that will endure the most, will definitively close on December 31.

How can the closure affect your devices?

How the cessation of 3G networks will affect devices that still rely on this technology varies depending on a few things. If you have a phone released no earlier than 2015, you shouldn’t worry. If you’re not sure, each carrier has a full list of devices that will continue to work on their current network. If affected, your phone company should have already told you (a process they started years ago) and offered to replace outdated devices with new ones that can connect to 4G LTE or 5G networks.

However, the number of people using 3G-only phones today is very small, only a few hundred thousand worldwide. It is expected that many affected people have not updated their 3G phones because at the time they forgot to do it or because one day they left an old phone in an emergency.

If you find yourself in that small group of people, you will have to start getting your act together. Older devices that don’t migrate to 4G LTE or 5G will become functionally useless when 3G is gone forever: they’ll still be on, but won’t be able to connect to a network. And it’s not just phones that will be affected. The fall of 3G networks will also affect other technologies such as automatic navigation systems, alarm systems, early e-readers and other Internet of Things devices that relied on 3G networks for data.

What to do if your phone is affected by 3G blackout

If you have a 3G-only phone or device that is about to lose connection functionality, the easiest way to avoid the problem is very simple: buy a newer device that can connect to 4G LTE and 5G networks. Don’t worry, if you’re under contract with a major carrier, they may have incentive programs that cover some or all of the costs for you to upgrade your device.

If you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford it, carriers sell a variety of devices, including older models, that connect to modern networks.

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