The third generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, more commonly known as 3G, has reached the end of its lifecycle. 3G was the driving force behind the app store boom, which occurred shortly after the release of the first Apple iPhone. Over time, mobile carriers transitioned from 3G to 4G LTE, which offered high speeds, high bandwidth, improved network security, and other features.
The latest version of wireless communication technology is 5G, which is slowly rolling out worldwide and even has applications outside of the smartphone industry.
In 2019, AT&T was the first company to publicly announce it would sunset its 3G wireless network. AT&T’s 3G network was officially shut down on February 22, 2022. AT&T states on its website that shutting down 3G enables the company to reallocate spectrum to new technologies – namely 5G.
Because T-Mobile absorbed Sprint in 2020, it also has plans to shut down 3G assets nationwide. Here are some key shutdown dates, according to T-Mobile’s website:
- March 31: Sprint’s 3G (CDMA) network will be retired
- June 30: Sprint’s LTE network will be retired
- July 1: T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network will be retired
Initially, Verizon announced it would shut down its 3G network in 2019. However, the company extended the shutdown date twice – one extension to 2020 and another to December 31, 2022.
How the Shutdown Will Impact Businesses
5G is a highly anticipated technology and will revolutionize several industries. However, what does the 3G shutdown mean for IT teams and business leaders?
Consumers or businesses using older devices – such as e-readers, laptops, and even security systems – will require upgrades as 5G enters the tech space. Certain medical devices, tablets, wearables, and vehicle services, like OnStar and navigation systems, may also be affected by the 3G shutdown.
Of course, most newer devices on the market no longer rely on 3G technology, and if a business’s technology has been updated in recent years, the company may not feel any sort of impact. However, businesses such as those with smaller technology budgets could still be relying on devices that and will continue to become obsolete as these types of shutdowns become more frequent.
Thus, IT professionals must be aware of the 3G shutdown and ensure the entire company is ready for the switch. Essentially, the shutdown could affect legacy devices that fall under an IT team’s responsibility.
How IT Teams Can Prepare for the 3G Shutdown
Because of the significant shift from 3G to 5G, IT and business professionals may feel concerned about whether or not they are adequately prepared. Here are some ways they can prepare for the 3G shutdown to ensure they do not experience major disruptions to operations or downtime due to legacy technology:
Identify Equipment in Need of Upgrades
Businesses and IT teams need to take inventory of their devices and systems that still rely on 3G technology. Each device must be identified and assessed to see which are compatible with 4G or 5G. Some older devices may not work with 4G or 5G, so taking this proactive measure is the first step. Organizations should consider using an equipment inventory checklist to ensure all systems are identified and organized.
Prioritize Systems That Could Lead to Downtime
While it may seem expensive to upgrade or replace 3G devices immediately, experiencing downtime can be even more costly if equipment malfunctions or fails to work properly. Identify which systems’ failures pose the greatest threat to the organization and make them the top priority. No company wants to experience downtime, but finding the systems or devices that pose the most risk will help a company decide what needs to be upgraded first.
Work to Retrofit or Replace 3G Devices or Systems
IT teams will need to implement new equipment, devices, or systems – preferably before 3G is truly phased out. This will reduce downtime and maintain business continuity. Teams may need to work with manufacturers to retrofit existing systems or devices or complete an overhaul to replace legacy systems.
Communicate With Clients or Customers
Adopting a spirit of transparency with clients or customers is essential during the 3G shutdown. For example, one home security systems business alerted its customers that the 3G shutdown could lead to disruptions.
To keep customers informed, the company advised customers to hire a technician to replace any 3G or outdated equipment to avoid any service interruptions. Something as serious as home security can be compromised if customers are not well informed about the 3G shutdown.
IT teams need to take a proactive approach to this 3G shutdown rather than scramble to make changes after the fact. With the anticipated widespread use of 5G, carriers are shutting down their 3G services to make room on towers for new equipment and reduce the overhead costs associated with running 3G. Consumers, businesses, and IT teams will be affected if they rely on outdated technology. It’s critical to be aware of this 3G shutdown to ensure all hardware and software features receive updates and are ready for the 5G rollout.