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 being phased out.
AT&T is set to pull the plug on its 3G network Tuesday, with other major US carriers expected to follow suit later this year. The move impacts everything from older phones to home alarm systems and roadside assistance systems.
According to the CNN, to move its mobile customers over to 4G without service interruptions, AT&T (T), which owns CNN’s parent company, has been providing free replacement phones to many users with a 3G device. It has also been attempting to alert customers to the network changes through various methods.
“For nearly two years, we’ve proactively sent numerous communications via direct mail, bill messaging, emails and text messages to help customers transition to next generation networks before 3G services end on February 22,” said.
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AT&T is shutting down its 3G networks as part of a greater effort to re-use the spectrum for 4G and 5G — newer standards that are more efficient than 3G. T-Mobile will do the same in the third quarter and Verizon will do so by the end of the year.
The shutdown will impact people still using 3G Kindles, 3G flip phones, the iPhone 5 and older models as well as various Android phones. It will also affect home alarm systems and medical devices such as fall detectors. Some in-car crash notification and roadside assistance systems like OnStar will need to be updated or replaced, too.
The 3G network launched in 2002 and became the driving force behind the early App Store boom around the end of that decade. The wireless companies later moved on to 4G and more recently 5G networks.
Last month, AT&T and Verizon turned on C-band 5G networks, an important set of higher radio frequencies that will supercharge the internet. The change will allow users to, for example, stream a Netflix movie in 4K resolution or download a movie in seconds. (Verizon said its C-band speeds reach nearly 1 gigabyte per second, about 10 times as fast as 4G LTE.)