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3G Cell Phones, Medical Devices Soon Won't Call 911: MD Officials

Patch logo Patch 12/17/2021 Kristin Danley-Greiner
According to the FCC’s website, AT&T will discontinue service in February, T-Mobile/Sprint will discontinue service between March and July, and Verizon will discontinue service at the end of 2022. © Shutterstock According to the FCC’s website, AT&T will discontinue service in February, T-Mobile/Sprint will discontinue service between March and July, and Verizon will discontinue service at the end of 2022.

MARYLAND — Millions of older cell phones and medical devices that rely on 3G networks may no longer work in a couple of months, warns the Maryland 9-1-1 Board. The nation’s three major wireless carriers - AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile - have each announced that they plan to discontinue 3G service in favor of 4G (LTE) and 5G service in 2022.

According to the FCC’s website, AT&T will discontinue service in February, T-Mobile/Sprint will discontinue service between March and July, and Verizon will discontinue service at the end of 2022. The move would impact older cell phones, some medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches and home security systems.

Most users of these services will be notified directly by the carriers if this discontinuation affects them. However, those with older phones used for 9-1-1 only purposes may not be notified if they do not have active service with the provider and should be made aware of this change, officials note. Organizations supporting the homeless and domestic violence shelters have given clients older phones without a service provider, since those phones could still be used to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.


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Low-income individuals with 9-1-1 only phones that may no longer be supported can apply for service through the federal Lifeline Program at www.lifelinesupport.org.

3G network technology has been around in the United States for two decades. Verizon launched the first 3G network in the nation in 2002, then eight years later 4G was unveiled. In 2019, carriers started rolling out 5G networks and 5G smartphones.

“The reason the carriers would like to get rid of old legacy tech is to free up that wireless spectrum,” Ian Fogg, vice president of analysis at mobile analytics firm Opensignal, told The Washington Post. “If you switch off older tech in most markets, most countries, your spectrum license allows you to use that with newer networks like 4G and 5G.”

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