If you have an older cell phone, it may stop working in 2022 when 3G is phased out. This is a big problem for low income people across the United States who rely on 3G-connected devices. We have all the details on this announcement and how it will impact you.
Are 3G phones being phased out?
Yes. Technically, it is the 3G network that is being phased out but this will affect all devices that rely on the 3G network to operate.
If you have a 3G mobile phone or an older 4G phone that does not support Voice over LTE, then you may be affected. We have more information about which phones will be impacted at the end of this article.
Other devices may be impacted by the end of 3G.
It’s not just phones, either. Some tablets, smart watches, home security systems and even medical devices like life alert alarms may be impacted by this change. Basically, any device that relies on the 3G network will be impacted when 3G is phased out.
If you have concerns about your specific device, the FCC encourages you to reach out to your provider for more information.
What will happen when 3G is phased out?
Unfortunately, when the 3G network shuts down, older phones that rely on it will be unable to make or receive calls, send texts or use data services. The FCC has warned that these devices will not even be able to call 911 after the change.
Basically, those older phones will be useless after the change.
Why is 3G being discontinued?
Basically, 3G is phased out to make more room for newer and faster 5G technology. By shutting down the 3G networks, they are able to make additional infrastructure and spectrum available for newer services. For example, when 4G was deployed, many carriers shut down their 2G networks to make more room for the newer technology.
This is a natural process that happens as technology evolves, but it is still a major inconvenience and challenge for low income people (especially low income seniors) who rely on older and more affordable technology.
When will 3G be phased out?
The changes could begin as early as January 1st, but each cell provider has their own timeline for completion. Although this may change:
- AT&T has announced that their 3G network will be fully shut down by February 2022
- Verizon will finish shutting down their network by December 31, 2022,
- Sprint’s 3G CDMA network will be fully shut down by March 31, 2022
- Sprint’s 4G LTE network will be fully shut down by June 30, 2022
- T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network will be shut down by July 1, 2022
Please remember those are the dates that their networks will be completely shut down. They will most likely begin retiring parts of their network much earlier, so you may be impacted before those dates.
What if I have a free Lifeline phone?
Many Lifeline providers use these networks. There will not be an exception for low income people with Lifeline services because the networks will be entirely shut down. There is no way to create any sort of low income exception.
When 3G is phased out, it may impact you if you are currently receiving a free cell phone with free service from a Lifeline provider. You will need to contact your Lifeline provider for more information about what to do. If they are unable to help you, you can always check our list to find a new Lifeline provider that may be more helpful.
Will my phone be affected when 3G is phased out?
In order to determine if your phone will be impacted by the end of 3G, you will need to know the exact model of the phone. Some manufacturers make it easy and put the model on the outside of your phone so that it is easy to see. Others are more complicated.
For iPhones, follow these steps to find your model:
- Go to Settings
- Tap General
- Tap About
For Android users, follow these steps to find your phone model:
- Go to Settings (in some cases, you may have to go to the System menu next)
- Tap About Phone or About Device
For older phones, you may need to remove the back cover, remove the battery and look for the model number on a label inside the battery area.
Most providers are keeping the list of affected devices very quiet and requiring users to log in to see if they are affected. However, Verizon has stated that the following devices will be impacted by the change:
- 3G Basic Phones and Smartphones
- 4G LTE Smartphones that do not support HD Voice
- Apple iPhone 5, 5C, 5S or Prior
- Apple iPad 2
- Samsung Galaxy S4 or Prior
- GizmoPal, GizmoPal2, GizmoGadget
- Various Hum+ Models
- 3G Home Phone Connect
To be very clear, only Apple iPhone 6 and newer will continue to work after the change. Any iPhones older than that will not work, so Apple iPhone 5 and previous iPhones will be affected by this change.
Similarly, only Samsung Galaxy S5s and newer will work after the change. Any Samsung Galaxy devices older than that will not work, so Samsung Galaxy S4s and previous Galaxy phones will be affected by this change. The only exception is the Galaxy S4 Mini, which appears to be on AT&T’s list of phones that will continue working after the transition.
What do I need to do to prepare for the end of 3G?
Depending on your device, you will either need to get a software update or an entirely new device when 3G is phased out.
Can I solve this with a software update?
In some cases, your device may just need a software update. AT&T has a list of devices that may require a software update, and that list currently includes:
- Alcatel IDEAL (4060A)
- OneTouch Allura (50560)
- Essential PH-1
- Google Pixel 4 Unlocked
- Google Pixel 4XL Unlocked
- Nokia 3.4 (TA1285)
- Nokia G10 (TA1338)
- HTC One M8 (OP6B120)
- Kyocera Dura Force (E6560)
- Kyocera Dura XE (E4710)
- LG G8 ThinQ (LM-6820QM)
- LG Stylo 5 (LM-Q720QM)
- LG Stylo 4 (LM-Q710ULM)
- LG K40 (LM-X420QN)
- LG G Vista (D631)
- LG G3 (D850)
- Sony Xperia 1 (J8170)
- Sony XPeria 5 (J8270)
- Teracube One (TR1907Q)
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (SM-R825U)
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (SM-R835U)
- Samsung Gear S4 (SM-R805U)
- Samsung Gear S4 (SM-R815U)
- Samsung Note 4 (SM-N910A)
- Samsung Note Edge (SM-N915A)
- Samsung Galaxy S5 (SM-G900A)
Will I need to get an entirely new device?
In some cases, you will need to get a completely new device. Of course, new devices are expensive so this creates a hardship for low income people across America.
The FCC has stated that providers may be offering special deals on new devices and that the Lifeline program may be able to help you obtain a new device. Check with your provider or visit our list at of Lifeline providers for details.