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3G networks to shut down in 2022: What this means for your phone

WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing logo WWMT Grand Rapids/Lansing 12/27/2021 CHRIS YU | WWMT Staff

KALAMAZOO, Mich.  (WWMT) — A new year could mean a necessary upgrade to a new phone. Major mobile carriers will be shutting down their 3G networks in 2022, rendering older phones useless.

The retirement of the 3G network is to make room for more advanced networks, like 5G, which is much faster.

Caption: WWMT

Once the 3G network is shut down, 3G cell phones will not work. 

In addition, some older 4G phones that do not support HD Voice (VoLTE or Voice over LTE) will also stop functioning. This means users will not be able to make or receive calls and texts, even to 911. 

Data services will also be unavailable on those devices. AT&T said it will shut down its entire 3G network by February 2022. 

T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint, said it will fully retire Sprint's 3G network by March 31, Sprint's 4G LTE network by June 30, and T-Mobile's 3G network by July 1.

Verizon said it will completely shut down its 3G network by Dec. 31, 2022.

The Federal Communications Commission said other carriers, like Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and some Lifeline mobile service providers use the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. As a result, phones under those carriers could also be affected.

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The major mobile carriers have each set up web pages with more information on their plans to phase out their 3G networks. The web pages include lists showing which phones are affected.

Those who need to get new phones to avoid a loss of service are advised to ask their providers about trade-in offers to upgrade at a discount or no cost. 

A Verizon employee says users should log into their accounts to see what upgrades they are eligible for.

Verizon said it initially announced it would shut down its 3G network in 2019. But the carrier pushed back the date to help its customers transition to newer devices. 

Verizon said more than 99% of its customers are on the 4G LTE or 5G network, and less than 1% are using 3G.

The FCC said the retirement of the 3G network will not only affect phones but other electronics like medical devices, tablets, smart watches, SOS services in vehicles, home security systems and other products connected to the 3G network.

For additional information, visit the FCC's website.

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