3G Downing: AT&T is shutting down its network; this is how it can affect you

CHICAGO – Twenty years after 3G was first introduced in the United States, paving the way for a new generation of mobile apps, the network is officially phased out.

AT&T is expected to pull the plug on its 3G network on Tuesday, with other major US carriers expected to follow suit later this year. The move impacts everything from old phones to home alarms and roadside assistance systems. CNN reported.

To move mobile customers to 4G without service interruption, AT&T, the parent company of CNN, has provided free replacement phones to many users with 3G devices. It also attempted to alert customers to network changes through various methods.

“For nearly two years, we’ve been proactively sending out a variety of communications via direct mail, bill messaging, email and text messages to help customers transition to the next-generation network before 3G service. ends February 22,” AT&T told CNN Business in a statement.

AT&T is shutting down its 3G networks as part of a larger effort to reuse spectrum for 4G and 5G – newer standards that are more efficient than 3G. T-Mobile will do the same in Q3, and Verizon will do the same later this year.

Here’s what you should know about turning off 3G.

Which products will be affected?

The outage will affect people still using Kindle 3G, 3G flip phones, iPhone 5 and later, as well as various Android phones. It will also affect home alarm systems and medical devices like fall detectors. Some in-car collision notification systems and roadside assistance systems like OnStar will also need to be updated or replaced.

If you’re not sure which network your phone is on, open Settings, tap Network & Internet, then select Cellular on your Android device. On iOS, select Settings, Cellular, then Cellular Data Options. AT&T also has a dedicated website to determine if your device is affected by the outage.

It can be harder to tell with other everyday products. If you’re not sure if your device will work on 3G, you can call the manufacturer or the car dealer.

RELATED: The launch of 5G service this week could wreak havoc on planes, airline CEO warns

What can I do with it?

For those who don’t want to get rid of their 3G mobile device, there are several workarounds. In theory, it would be possible to access a web browser over Wi-Fi or make wireless calls on a 3G phone if the user has an app that supports voice over internet protocols, such as Facebook Messenger. Similarly, people with 3G e-readers can still download new books to the device over Wi-Fi.

Other 3G products may be more complex. My Alarm Center, a home security system company, has warned customers that certain alarm systems will need to be replaced by a technician to avoid potential disruptions. “Even if your alarm appears to be working, it will no longer contact our central service station to notify us that emergency services are needed,” the company stated on its website. its website.

General Motors, which owns OnStar, began pushing out online updates in October for vehicles released since 2015, including Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac models, which may be affected. affected by the transition. As a general rule, most cars manufactured within the last 5 years with connectivity are using 4G modems. If the car runs on 3G, the manufacturer may offer an upgrade program, or the wireless carrier may provide an adapter with a modem that can be plugged into the vehicle.

Why is this happening?

The 3G network launched in 2002 and became the driving force behind the initial App Store boom around the end of that decade. Wireless companies then moved to 4G networks and more recently to 5G networks.

Last month, AT&T and Verizon switched on 5G C-band networks, a key set of higher radio frequencies that will boost internet speeds. This change will allow users to, for example, stream a Netflix movie in 4K or download a movie in seconds. (Verizon says its C-band speeds are close to 1 gigabyte per second, about 10 times faster than 4G LTE.)

Only a small fraction of wireless customers are still using 3G networks. In a blog post, Verizon said 99% of its customers have upgraded to 4G LTE or 5G, and AT&T says less than 1% of their mobile data traffic runs on 3G. T-Mobile did not respond to a request for comment on its 3G user base.

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Dais Johnston

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