SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you’ve been clinging to your favorite old cellphone for years, it’s time for an upgrade. Or at least it could be very soon, thanks to a phase-out coming next year.
Your service provider will most likely be dropping support for 3G networks in the months ahead. The change will impact customers of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and more.
There is no firm cut-off date for what age of phones are too old to continue to function once 3G is phased out, but South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson says that in many cases, it will be flip phones and even some of the older smartphones that were among the first to operate on 4G that will be affected.
“My elderly mother has a flip phone, one that she’s had for many years. She dearly loves her flip phone, but when we researched it, we found that it is indeed a 3G flip phone. We worked with her carrier on a brand new flip phone, but one that is going to be 4G compliant,” Nelson said.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, the phase-out work can begin as early as Jan. 1, 2022. The agency said AT&T plans to end the coverage by February, T-Mobile and former Sprint customers will see service turned off through the first half of the year, and Verizon has planned to fully shut down 3G before the end of 2022.
“Many carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk, and several Lifeline mobile service providers, utilize AT&T’s, Verizon’s, and T-Mobile’s networks,” writes the FCC, meaning customers of those carriers will face similar constraints.
Nelson said some carriers are even offering free upgrades to newer phones to smooth the transition. The FCC also has a Lifeline program aimed at keeping lower-income families connected.
If your phone operates on 4G, Nelson said it will depend on the age of the technology to determine if it will still work.
“There are various types of 4G technology,” he said. “The latest 4G technology will continue to work for a long time to come. It was some of the very, very earliest 4G technology that is probably going to be phased out along with 3G.”
Increased customer data usage is what has made faster networks essential. If you’re looking for resources to help you understand the transition up to a newer 4G or 5G compatible device, Nelson recommends checking out the FCC website.
While cell phones are the main devices that will be affected by the transition away from 3G, Nelson said any device that communicates with the cell network could be affected. Among these he lists alarm systems and medical devices, and he recommends checking to make sure they are 4G compliant.