About every 10 years, a new generation of wireless technologies emerges, offering greater capacity, higher speeds, and new features. Private telecommunications providers invest billions into their networks to migrate to next generation technologies—3G, 4G, 5G—to improve network capacity and performance, offer new devices and services, attract new customers, and generate revenue.
When providers migrate to next generation networks, they often decommission (i.e., shut off and dismantle) older, obsolete networks. Around 2016, providers began planning their 5G networks, using existing 4G infrastructure. Simultaneously, providers began planning to decommission their 3G networks and notify customers of decommissioning dates. The dates varied by provider but generally ranged from February 2019 through early 2022.
For network operators, decommissioning allows them to focus resources on 5G networks, which many in Congress see as critical to maintaining U.S. leadership and competitiveness in the global telecommunication market. Meanwhile, consumers who have older (3G) devices have voiced concern to Members that once providers turn off 3G networks, they will no longer be able to use their cell phones to access critical services, including 9-1-1.
While providers have informed consumers of the 3G decommissioning and offered upgrades to newer-generation phones, there are often added costs to consumers.
Additionally, other devices, such as home alarm systems, personal medical alert systems, court-ordered ankle monitors, and vehicle safety technologies rely on 3G networks and may be affected by the 3G shutdown.
Market segments covered:
School Bus Technologies
Connected Car Technologies
Court-Ordered Electronic Monitoring Devices
Manufacturers of Medical Alert Devices
Rural Wireless Providers
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)
Source: Decommissioning 3G Networks: Impact on Consumer Devices