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3G Riding into the Sunset

Home 3G Riding into the Sunset

3G Riding into the Sunset

by Harsha Kalkoti
Harsha Kalkoti

Every now and then, a technology comes along that changes the strides humanity takes. The introduction of the first-generation iPhone in 2007 changed the way we look at the phone and how we use it. Smartphones and social networking have changed the way we communicate and work, which has had an unprecedented impact on healthcare, travel, education, national security, and political and social revolutions. If we look closer, however, 3G networks once played a very crucial role in the emergence of these smartphones and social networks, but now that time has passed, and the sunset of 3G networks is near. The ubiquitous nature of 3G networks, the high speed required to support this transcendental user experience, and low-priced data plans were the catalyst required for the huge impact that smartphones had on human history.

3G Sunset Dates: When Will 3G Be Shut Down?

In the United States, major operators have announced plans to shut down the 3G network. Verizon had plans to shut down the 3G network earlier in 2016, as it didn’t make economic sense to maintain the 3G CDMA network and a different 4G network, but those plans were delayed. 3G has lasted for years after, and until this today, 3G was still available, with no plan to shut it down or phased out. However, it appears the plan to stop 3G networks is back on track.

Tracking the 3G Sunset: Dates & Details

How much longer will 3G last? Here are some 3G sunset dates and how major U.S. carriers plan to end 3G.

Carrier When Why How The details
Verizon End of 2020 “Virtually all Verizon data traffic runs on our 4G LTE network. We have very few customers who are still accessing our 3G network.” Customers “are welcome to call into our customer service team and we will be happy to help them.” FAQs
AT&T “Early” 2022 “This will help free up spectrum to better accommodate next-generation technologies and services.” “We will work with our customers during this transition.” FAQs
T-Mobile “Over the next several years” but “we haven’t shared timing.” “We will be phasing out some older technologies… to free up even more capacity for LTE and 5G.” “We’ll make sure any affected customers are aware in advance to make adjustments if needed.” N/A

Source: Light Reading, “Goodbye 3G: Here’s when T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon will shut it off.”

Why Operators Should Move on from 3G

Here are some reasons for operators to make the move from 3G:

  • The primary driver is the re-use of spectrum for 5G. Spectrum is the lifeblood of the operators and there can never be enough spectrum for them.
  • Cost and operational efficiency of maintaining only 5G/4G networks.
  • A mad “gold rush” kind of frenzy to claim the first/early mover advantage of higher speeds and nationwide coverage on 5G networks, which in turn will help retain and add new subscribers to their network.
  • The promise of all the 5G features with Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and especially Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) with limitless possibilities.
  • Decrease the complexity and increase reliability of the core networks, which aren’t required to support 3G technologies going forward.

Why Subscribers Should Move on from 3G

Here are some reasons for subscribers to make the move from 3G:

  • 5G-capable devices are already available now, which are more efficient and cost-effective in the long run.
  • The major US operators have confirmed there is no additional cost or surcharge
  • The majority of 3G/2G devices tend to be the IoT devices and there are a rich set of 5G Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) features and more exciting features coming down the pipeline.

While the curtain coming down on 3G reminds me of Clint Eastwood riding off into the sunset at the end of the movie The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly,  there is a lot of excitement about the future of 5G and exciting applications such as augmented/virtual reality, Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X), the scale of billions of connected devices, and the insane speeds and low latencies never before experienced. And, finally, Peter Thiel will get his proverbial flying cars instead of 140 characters. Now, if only European operators would follow the lead from United States operators and also shutdown their 3G/2G networks. Come out of the dark ages and help me out on my roadmap. Is that too much to ask? Sigh!