Many Americans still rely on phones or other critical emergency devices that can connect only to 3G networks. Recent studies show that nearly 20 percent of Americans were still on 3G networks.
Big corporate telecom has long planned to phase out 3G networks to free up valuable resources for higher profit 5G networks, which carriers say will bring faster speeds and allow more mobile devices to connect than ever before. But the transition has been complicated by the pandemic, as safety concerns hampered outreach, especially to older Americans, and snarled supply chains globally, adding to a chip shortage that makes it more difficult to replace outdated devices.
Phone carriers have resisted slowing the transition, arguing that they have warned for years that the transition is coming and they claim they’ve taken extensive steps to ensure that their customers aren’t disconnected. Count us skeptical of that.
AT&T, which plans to shutter its network in February, says it has reached out to affected customers and provided them with discounted or in some instances free phone upgrades. Other networks, including T-Mobile, have delayed their shutdowns until slightly later to accommodate people who still haven’t upgraded: T-Mobile will shut down Sprint’s 3G network on March 31, 2022; Verizon has said it will shut down its network on Dec. 31, 2022.
Rural residents and many older Americans are finding the transition challenging, especially as the delta variant makes them wary of contact with technicians.
Family members have found themselves going to extraordinary lengths to help relatives upgrade. Many emergency alert systems were designed to work on 3G networks