Wednesday, December 7, 2022

How to tell if your phone will be affected by the 3G shutdown

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Ever since the Help Desk launched final September, we’ve acquired a great deal of questions from folks questioning about the impending 3G shutdown. Will their telephones be affected? Will they nonetheless have service the place they dwell? Are there methods to delay the lives of their present units? We’ve answered as many of those as we might, however even now as the shutdown has begun, many individuals nonetheless don’t know the place they stand.

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That’s why this week’s column is devoted to the demise of 3G, a gradual course of that will run by way of no less than the finish of 2022. If you will have your personal questions on what all of this implies for you and your devices, drop us a line at [email protected] We’ll do our greatest to get you the solutions you want. For now, although, right here’s what you want to learn about the community shutdown occurring throughout us proper now.

What has occurred up to now?

AT&T began to flip off its 3G community that has supplied phone and cell information service since 2004. There’s no single plug AT&T can pull to put an finish to 3G unexpectedly, which implies there are lots of areas the place the service continues to perform usually.

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For Petar Marinov, a phone fanatic with over 500 fashions in his assortment, that didn’t come as a lot of a shock. We chatted two days after AT&T’s cutoff date on one in all his favourite collector’s objects, a Motorola Razr flip phone from 2006 that also works simply fantastic on a 3G community in Missouri. As it seems, these extended shutdowns are simply how the wi-fi business works.

“I remember the 2G shutdown and it was staggered throughout the country,” he stated of AT&T’s final main community shutdown in 2017. “I know that other people have claimed they had service for two days after or for three days after” [the announcement.

That means if you’re one of the few still clinging to an 3G-only AT&T phone, you may still have some time to prepare. If you have a 3G-only phone with Verizon or T-Mobile, you have more time and can read about the specific dates below. But there’s no telling exactly how long 3G will continue to operate, so it’s best to switch to a new device if you haven’t already.

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When are the other dates?

3G service as whole will end this year, and if you have a device that will be affected, you’ve probably already heard from your service provider. Still, it’s always smart to keep deadlines in mind for when the rest of the country’s older “legacy” networks are slated to go dark. The cutoff for Sprint 3G is March 31 and Sprint LTE is June 30, while the cutoff for T-Mobile is July 1 and Verizon 3G is Dec. 31.

Will my phone be affected?

If there’s one thing about this network shutdown that wireless carriers should have made easier to understand, it’s how to tell if your phone might stop working. In some cases, it’s pretty obvious. If your old phone still has a black and white screen, for instance, you’ll probably need to get a new one.

But even then, there’s still plenty of room for confusion, especially because some 4G phones will also be affected. Here are a few ways to figure out if you’ll need to upgrade.

Figure out when you purchased it. With 3G going dark, your phone has to be able to make calls over at least 4G LTE networks. That feature was launched across the major wireless providers in 2014, so if you bought your phone before that, you’ll probably need a replacement.

Keep an eye out for texts or emails. To their credit, these companies have been reaching out to people whose devices won’t work after their cutoffs. If you think you might be at risk, keep your eyes peeled for messages from your wireless carrier. In some cases, they may even redirect your outgoing phone calls to a customer service line to walk you through the changes.

Ask your service provider directly. It’ll have the most updated information about what phones will and won’t be supported after the shutdown. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all have at least partial lists of supported models. If you bought a smartphone from say, Amazon, instead of your service provider, you should jump right to this step. Even if they’re reasonably modern, some international or “unlocked” models might not come with the right software that lets them make calls over 4G LTE.

What about other devices?

Phones aren’t the only thing that rely on 3G networks, meaning a bevy of the gadgets and features you’ve come to rely on may stop working correctly if they haven’t already.

Home alarm systems and medical monitoring tools might be the most concerning things on that list, since many of them use cellular connections to contact emergency services. Right now, though, some of those systems are still stuck in limbo.

AT&T signed a deal with T-Mobile to let some of those systems lean on that company’s 3G network instead, but that’s not exactly ideal. For one, T-Mobile plans to discontinue that network over the summer, so that deal mostly just delays the inevitable. Representatives for the Alarm Industry Communications Committee pointed out other potential issues to the Federal Communications Commission.

“Other 3G alarm radios may not be programmable for such roaming,” especially personal emergency response system units “widely used by the elderly, especially Medicaid patients and those requiring monitoring of medical conditions,” their petition reads. “The solution will also not help those 3G-based alarm customers where T-Mobile does not have 3G coverage.”

And now, as the 3G shutdown has officially begun, it’s still unclear how many people have been left in the dark. Celia Besore, chief executive of the Monitoring Association, a security system trade group, said there is no “accurate assessment of what has not been upgraded.”

“Many organizations have reported that they completed the project and others have not but are continuing to work on them,” she added. “Additionally, a small subset of radios were successfully migrated to T-Mobile, which will extend those out until July 1.”

If your car came with special features like a Wi-Fi hotspot or an “SOS” button for use in emergencies, those may also stop working. The most comprehensive list of affected models we found was published by enthusiast site the Drive, though you should also make sure to check your carmaker’s website. Some of them offer tools to help figure out if your specific make and model are affected.

When is the next shutdown?

According to experts, not for a long time. You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about 5G lately, and it’s hard to find a new smartphone in a store that doesn’t play nice with those new wireless networks. But that doesn’t mean the 4G LTE networks many of us still rely on are going anywhere for a while.

“While 5G is growing quickly and 3G-only devices will become obsolete as 3G networks are discontinued, mobile operators won’t sunset 4G LTE devices anytime soon,” said Patrick Linder, a senior director at the network testing firm RootMetrics. “With LTE playing such a massive role across the connectivity landscape at large, it will likely be at least another 10 to 15 years before LTE users are forced to upgrade to 5G.”

That means if you have a phone that works just fine on 4G LTE right now, you won’t need to worry about it becoming completely obsolete until well into the 2030s. I’d like to think you’ll have upgraded your phone at least once before then, because everyone deserves to treat themselves now and then, so don’t sweat it this year.

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