Technology is a rolling stone that gathers no moss. Just when we are all getting comfy with the status quo, tech companies have decided to convert their 3G and 4G networks to 5G, which may have an impact on you or your family members. 5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard.
In the short term, there may be some disruptions in service that you need to stay on top of to ensure you have decent service for your phone, plus any other equipment relying on internet service.
Why is this change being made?
5G is meant to deliver higher data speeds, higher performance and improved efficiency. Verizon Wireless claims its 5G network is set to revolutionize our world with a new platform for 21st century innovation, offering more capabilities and opportunities for wireless customers.
What will happen?
In order to make room for more advanced network services like 5G, mobile carriers are shutting down their 3G networks for the latest technology. Unfortunately, if you own an older cell phone, once 5G is implemented you may be unable to make or receive calls and texts or use the data services. That’s essentially everything—you might as well use your phone as a door stop or paperweight once this takes place with your provider. This also affects certain 4G mobile phones that do not support voice over LTE.
So, what does LTE on my phone mean? LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. It’s a term used for the particular type of 4G that delivers the fastest mobile internet experience. Using a 4G smartphone on a 4G network means you can download files from the internet up to 10 times faster than with 3G.
When will this happen?
The timing will vary by provider, and some may have flipped the switch as early as January 1, 2022. Others may phase out the process. Your best bet is to check your mobile provider’s website for details.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports the following schedule:
- AT&T shut down its 3G network in February 2022.
- Verizon will shut down its 3G network by December 31, 2022.
- T-Mobile will shut down Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by March 31, 2022; the Sprint 4G network will be shut down by June 30, 2022; T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network by July 1, 2022. No date has been decided for the 2G network.
Even if your mobile provider is not listed, you may still be affected, because many other carriers use AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile networks—such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and several Lifeline providers.
The good news is that the major cellular providers have been preparing for this shift to 5G for years, which means very few of their customers remain on 3G networks today.
Who is impacted?
This will depend on what type and how old your device is. In addition to disruptions in phone service (if you have an older phone), remember that other devices—such as medical devices, tablets, smart watches, vehicle SOS services, home security systems and other connected products may be using 3G network services. Don’t forget about devices that use cellular back-up connections if your wired internet connection goes down.
What do you need to do?
Start with visiting your provider’s website for information on the phase-out to determine whether your particular model phone will be affected. If so, depending on the carrier, you likely have options that may include:
A phone upgrade. In advance of this switch to 5G, many providers are offering special deals and discounts for customers to upgrade their phones. Some may even offer free phones. What’s more, this is a great and/or necessary excuse for you to pick out a new phone with cool features, a better camera, longer battery life and more.
In-person visit. Your provider’s retail store will be able to discuss your options in person, offer suggestions moving forward, and likely put you into a 5G compatible phone. Be sure to ask for any discounts or freebies available. Are you a loyal customer? Use that to your advantage because they don’t want to lose your business.
Consider government-backed programs. Check out FCC programs that may be able to assist eligible customers with the cost of phone or internet service. Eligibility will be determined by income in order to make sure all Americans have the opportunity and security that phone service brings—connecting to jobs, family and emergency services.
Look for discounts. The FCC also offers temporary discounts of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information and FAQs, visit the FCC’s 5G page.
Resources: Federal Communications Commission, Verizon, AT&T