What Happens in the 3G Shutdown?

We don’t usually pay attention to changes in the telecom infrastructure for one simple reason: we don’t have to! Most of the upgrades and adjustments happen behind the scenes, during off-hours, or literally underground.

But now and then there’s an event that does impact users in noticeable ways, and you don’t want to be caught off guard at an inopportune time. The shutdown of the 3G mobile network is one example, potentially impacting how you stay connected and safe.

Let’s talk about how to prepare for the 3G shutdown taking place this year, how various devices will be affected, and what to expect as new technology emerges moving forward.

The End of 3G

Before we get into the details of the shutdown, we should first give a round of applause to 3G, which has been around for nearly 25 years. The technology emerged as a predecessor to a globally connected internet, and changed the world forever.

While we might see 3G as slow and clunky today, it provided a cutting-edge experience when it first launched in the early 2000s. It also paved the way for constant interconnectivity, which undoubtedly had a multiplier effect on the tech boom and global economy.

3G deserves all the accolades, but all good things must come to an end. The industry organization known as the GSMA made the announcement a few years back, and the mission is finally underway.

It has been a long time coming, and after multiple delays, 3G is coming to a close once and for all. The major service providers – AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile – are flipping the switch turning 3G obsolete as 2022 rolls on.

What Will Change?

Since less than 10% of the population uses 3G phones, it may not seem like such a big deal that the network is winding down. 

But it’s not just the last generation of smartphones that rely on 3G. There are many other devices and communications tools that will need upgrading as a result of this change.

Home security systems that protect you and your family may run on 3G technology, so determine if your current system is ready for an overhaul. The same goes for certain fire alarms and medical alert devices that serve as a lifeline for loved ones.

Aside from that, you may have 3G-connected devices like inventory trackers in retail settings, and older generation E-readers like Kindles and Nooks may run on 3G as well.

If you have a car safety alert system in your vehicle from the late 2000s or earlier (think OnStar), you may lose some features and functionality with the end of 3G. In that case, be sure to swap out your system or set up alternatives on your phone.

Finally, there are certain smartwatches that use 3G to stay connected, especially older ones that feature GPS and health tracking technology. If you’ve been shopping for a new smartwatch, now is the perfect time to make that purchase.

How to Prepare

Preparing for the end of 3G is straightforward in most cases. Just toss that old tech and replace it! No need for reconfiguration or tinkering. It’s what’s known in the industry as a “forklift upgrade” because there’s no hands-on effort required.

But there’s one situation that may demand another step or two: your SIM card. This tiny card stores all the address and text data you’ve been building for years, as well as your phone number, so it shouldn’t be ignored.

Usually, it only takes a few seconds to remove a SIM card and place it in a new phone, but in this case, you might need to perform an over-the-air (OTA) update to ensure compatibility with the next generation of tech.

Thankfully, these steps are easy to follow and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes from start to finish. When you receive your new SIM, it’s plug-and-play as usual.

For the rest of your technology, we recommend doing a complete audit and double-checking the functionality of every device in your lineup. This mainly goes for alarms and security systems, but also the other consumer tech devices we listed above.

The Next Wave of Tech

It’s not surprising to see 3G bow out in 2022, after more than 20 years of innovation. 4G made its appearance in 2008, and 5G is finally seeing widespread adoption in the current gen.

As expected, each iteration represents another step forward in speed, coverage, functionality, and user experience. There’s no need to be nostalgic for 3G when you now have breakneck connection speeds for a fraction of the price.

Even more exciting is the rise of IoT networks that will revolutionize home tech and make life easier in every way. Whether you’re an early adopter or prefer to wait for more details, you should be excited for the mobile networks of the future.