NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Next year could mark the end of an area for cell phone users across the U.S.
Wireless providers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are planning to shut down their 3G networks in favor of faster 5G service.
AT&T plans on shutting down their 3G network in February, T-Mobile is shutting down Sprint’s in March and Verizon is expected to shut theirs down at the end of December 2022.
Twenty years ago, 3G was the newest wireless network but now the future is in faster, 4 and 5G networks.
The move could leave millions of customers without working phones, unless they upgrade to newer models.
One study from Market Analysis Firm OpenSignal, says that as of 2018, nearly 20% of Americans were still using 3G.
If they don’t upgrade, they could lose access to emergency services, such as life alert and home security systems, as well as calling on older phones.
Older adults and low income people with older phones will be most impacted by the change.
Advocates are urging the FCC to step in and slow the process down.
They say the pandemic has made it hard for people to get into older people’s homes to upgrade their emergency systems and now with the chip shortage it made it hard to get an upgraded phone.
AT&T says they’ve reached out to impacted users and offered discounted or free upgrades.
The FCC says some tablets, smart watches, mobile car services, and home security systems in medical devices may also be impacted. However, some equipment may only need a software update.