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AG Chris Carr Encourages Businesses, Consumers to Prepare for Shutdown of 3G Technology

Attorney General Chris Carr is encouraging Georgia businesses and consumers to prepare for the complete shutdown of 3G technology as mobile networks transition to more advanced network services, including 5G coverage. 

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“We understand that news of the 3G shutdown may have escaped the notice of many Georgians, but this is an important issue,” said Carr. “Service to certain older mobile devices will be disabled, including the ability to dial 911, some home security systems will no longer connect to their servers and some medical devices will require updates as well. We urge Georgia businesses and consumers to contact their providers to determine if they are impacted by this shutdown and to act quickly if a device or software upgrade is required.”

The change will affect devices that run on 3G, including:

  • Older mobile phones, as well as 4G cell phones that do not support Voice Over LTE
  • Vehicles, even some newer models, with connected services
  • Medical devices
  • Home security systems
  • Tablets
  • Smart watches
  • Devices that use cellular connectivity as a backup when a wired internet connection goes down

Once the shutdown is complete, these devices cannot be used to:

  • Make or receive phone calls, including dialing 911
  • Visit websites
  • Access apps
  • Connect with emergency services

To help prepare for the ongoing phase-out and full shutdown of 3G technology, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following information, which includes guidance from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

When is the 3G phase-out happening?

Though the phase-out is ongoing and began earlier this year for some networks, final plans to retire 3G services will vary based on the company and may change over time. Consult your mobile provider’s website for the most up-to-date information.

  • AT&T announced that it will complete the shutdown of its 3G network by February 2022.
  • T-Mobile announced that it will complete the shutdown of Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by March 31, 2022, and Sprint’s 4G LTE network by June 30, 2022. The company also announced it will shut down T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network by July 1, 2022, but has not yet announced a shutdown date for its 2G network.
  • Verizon announced that it will complete the shutdown of its 3G network by Dec. 31, 2022.

Note: The dates above are for completing the shutdowns. Carriers may begin retiring parts of their networks sooner.

If your mobile carrier is not listed above, you may still be affected. Many carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and several Lifeline mobile service providers, utilize networks provided by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

What do I need to do?

Contact your mobile provider or consult your provider’s website for more information about their 3G retirement plan and whether your phone or other connected device may be affected. It is important to plan now so you do not lose connectivity, including the ability to call 911.

Some carrier websites provide lists of devices that will no longer be supported after 3G networks are shut down. You may need to upgrade to a newer device to ensure you stay connected, and carriers may offer special deals to help consumers who need to upgrade their phones.

Some devices may only require a software update to enable VoLTE (HD Voice) or other advanced services. If you purchased your phone independent of a mobile provider, you should be able to check whether your device is 4G LTE (with VoLTE or HD Voice) enabled by checking your phone’s settings or user manual, or by searching your phone’s model number on the internet, to determine whether you need to purchase a new device or install a software update.

What about other smart devices?

If the device is not labeled with the network bandwidth, (e.g. 3G, 4G, etc.), contact the monitoring company or other service provider to confirm how the device connects and whether your device may be impacted.

What if I can’t afford to upgrade my smartphone?

Your mobile service provider may be offering special deals on new devices, including some deals that might include a free cell phone.

In addition, although they do not cover the cost of new devices, other FCC programs may be able to assist eligible consumers with the cost of phone or internet services:

  • The FCC’s Lifeline program may be able to assist eligible consumers in getting connected to phone and internet services. The program provides a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services. You can learn more about the Lifeline Program and find out if you may be eligible here.
  • In addition, the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides a temporary discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can learn more about the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, what it covers and find out if you may be eligible here.

How will the 3G phase-out affect my vehicle?

It may come as a surprise that even some newer vehicle models still run on 3G. This means that 3G vehicles that have in-nav traffic and location data, WiFi hotspots, emergency call services, remote lock/unlock functions, smartphone app connectivity, voice assistants and even concierge services may be affected when 3G technology goes away. Some vehicle manufacturers will be providing an automatic over-the-air-update, some will be offering new hardware through a dealership, while other manufacturers will simply stop supporting connected services in the affected models altogether.

Whether or not an available upgrade will be provided for free or at a cost also varies based on the manufacturer. Consumers should visit the vehicle manufacturer’s website or contact their dealership to find out how their particular car will be affected.

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