FOX Business provides a roundup of everything you need to know about AT&T’s 3G sunset.
Which devices will be affected by the 3G sunset?
According to the Federal Communications Commission, the telecommunications industry’s 3G sunset will impact certain phones, tablets, smartwatches, medical devices, vehicle SOS services, home security systems and other connected products that do not support 4G LTE services.
Zonar Systems, which provides GPS and other services for buses and trucks, said in an FCC filing that over 100,000 school buses and other vehicles, including first responder, utility and construction vehicles and over-the-road freight carriers, rely on 3G services for safety, compliance with federal mandates and logistics. Trucks that aren’t upgraded may have to be idled if drivers can’t electronically log their hours as federal rules require.
A slew of automakers including General Motors, Tesla, Toyota, Nissan, Lexus, Honda, Porsche, Subaru, Volvo, Volkswagen, Acura, Audi and BMW have previously announced that 3G services in select older vehicle models will also be impacted by the shutdown.
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AARP, the advocacy group for adults over 50, is also concerned that elderly users of medical alert systems, such as Life Alert, won’t know their gadgets don’t work anymore or won’t be able to replace them in time.
The Alarm Industry Communications Committee, which filed a petition to the FCC in May 2021 seeking to delay AT&T’s 3G sunset, has warned that the move could result in “tens of millions” of people losing access to central station alarm protection services. The group notes that approximately 60% of the nearly 6 million alarm systems that transmit signals reporting fires, home invasions, medical emergencies and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide use 3G radios supported by AT&T’s network. Nearly 2 million security, fire and medical alert devices still remain on 3G, according to the AICC.
AT&T has argued that delaying the shutdown would hurt its 5G rollout, degrading its customers’ ability to use its service and causing more dropped calls. In addition, AT&T says that alarm companies have had years to upgrade their customers’ devices and that the FCC does not have the authority to stop its shutdown. Though the FCC did not act on the AICC’s petition, the agency did reach an agreement with AT&T to create new roaming options to act as a bridge for certain devices after the 3G shutdown.
What options are available for impacted consumers?
AT&T notes on its website that the only option for its customers is to upgrade to a phone that supports at least 4G LTE service. Customers can make an appointment for an upgrade at one of AT&T’s stores or do so online. AT&T’s full list of devices that will continue to be supported after the 3G sunset can be found here.
In addition, consumers should contact their local car dealers or manufacturers of alarms or personal medical alert systems to determine if an upgrade is needed. The 3G-related issues in some impacted vehicles will be addressed with an over-the-air software update.
Wireless industry trade group CTIA estimates that 99% of Americans already have access to three or more 4G LTE networks.
When will the other telecommunications giants shut down their 3G networks?
T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint in April 2020, will retire Sprint’s older 3G code-division multiple access (CDMA) network on March 31 and its LTE network on June 30. T-Mobile’s older 3G Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) network will be retired on July 1.
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Meanwhile, Verizon will turn off the last of its 3G CDMA network on Dec. 31.
The Associated Press contributed to this report