In case you weren’t aware, AT&T’s 3G network in the US will be shutting down later this month, and other companies will be close on their heels in shutting down theirs this year. If you have a new cell phone, you likely haven’t paid much notice to this news, while people with older devices are scrambling to upgrade to 4G and 5G networks to keep their data.
However, this shutdown will have much wider implications than just smartphones – a huge array of important devices still run on the old but perfectly adequate 3G network, and the shutdown is going to have some big implications. Devices including home alarms, in-car assistance features, medical devices, tracking systems, and more all still rely on 3G to work, and while some are being upgraded in time for the shutdown, others will be left behind.
In the US alone, millions of cars use 3G for their onboard GPS systems, as well as features that notify first responders when the car is involved in an accident. Manufacturers Cheverolet, Buick, and Cadillac have responded to the shutdown with simple software updates that will restore functionality and connect the car to 4G networks, but many cars from other manufacturers will permanently lose the emergency crash notification.
If you are worried about the impact this will have on your car, Consumer Reports has an up-to-date list of manufacturers and models that will be affected.
Medical devices will also be hit by the shutdown, including systems that alert carers when there is an emergency and even systems that monitor patients with pacemakers, such as the Merlin@home™ transmitter. These companies are now sending out adapters for the systems that accept them, but in other cases, the device will have to connect to a WiFi system to maintain Internet connectivity.
Home security systems will also be hit, with most of the popular models since 2016 relying on 3G to relay messages. Most security companies have already migrated their subscribers over to other data networks, but if you believe your security system may use 3G, you should reach out to your security provider.
The AT&T 3G shutdown will happen on February 22 and T-Mobile expects to have their systems shut down by the third quarter of this year; Verizon will likely end theirs by the end of 2022. For many people, it will be a case of entirely replacing some devices to remain connected to the Internet.
"A few million connected devices in the smart home space still need to be replaced, including my meter for my solar panels," said Roger Entner, analyst and founder of Recon Analytics, reports CNN.
"Some companies started reaching out to their customers over the past 2 years informing them that service would soon shut off, but as of 6 months ago, many products still haven't gotten around to replacing them yet."