3G is going away. Is your equipment ready? (Are you SURE?)

Hey, remember 3G? It was the hit product of 2007. Back then we thought the ability to look at web pages on our phone in under a minute was “blazing fast and amazing.” Times have changed.

AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, the leading cell carriers in the US, have all committed to shutting down their 3G networks by the end of 2022. They’re doing this because they can use the same frequencies used by 3G for newer, faster 5G service. 5G is what people want, and keeping the 3G network going is mostly a waste of time.

Here’s why you should care

Chances are, you gave up your 3G-only phone sometime about 7 years ago. Today’s phones support 4G, LTE, and 5G. For voice calls, this means better quality and faster connections. For data, it means speeds over 100 times faster. But you know this, which is why you upgraded. The only people still using 3G are the folks who clutch desperately to their flip phones. Not that there’s anything wrong with that group, but that’s just the nature of technology. Eventually the tech you love will be replaced, and you’ll have to move on. We’ve all been there.

However, there’s something else you need to consider, and that’s the M2M market.

M2M? Like the candy?

No, that’s M&M. M2M means “machine to machine” and it refers to those cellular connections that take place between devices with no human interaction. I know, that sounds scary, but it isn’t. A lot of M2M equipment uses 3G data, because it’s been inexpensive over the years. All that equipment will need to be replaced in order to continue working. Here’s some examples:

  • Tesla cars made before about 2016 will lose all connectivity while on the road. They’ll still get updates over Wi-Fi, but they’ll lose a lot of entertainment options.
  • Soda and candy machines that accept credit cards will stop working except for cash (and who wants to handle cash?)
  • Some security systems with cellular modems will stop communicating with the outside world, meaning they can’t automatically alert police.

These are just some of the M2M applications out there that could be affected by the 3G shutdown. We tend to not even think about the many cellular connections around us until something like this transition happens. When it does, it has the potential to take us by surprise.

What’s the next step?

If you have any device that you even suspect has a cellular modem in it, it’s time to contact the manufacturer to see what your options are. In many cases there’s an upgrade path. A technician swaps one module for another, and you use LTE instead of 3G. This will buy you another 7 years or so before that technology goes obsolete, maybe more.

If you’re using an M2M booster like weBoost’s Signal 3G, contact Solid Signal at 888-233-7563 to discuss replacing it with a newer model. There are many options now and it might even be better to install a large-scale booster system instead of a smaller point-to-point model.

So yes, 3G is going away. But it doesn’t have to be scary. It’s just a matter of planning. Now is the time, and now that you know, you can take action.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.