3G Networks Are Shutting Down: What Does That Mean for Your Cellphone?

AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile Will Discontinue 3G Service In 2022.

The Maryland 9-1-1 Board is warning consumers that older phones may cease operating in early 2022 due to the retirement of 3G networks and support for phones using 3G service. In addition to mobile phones, other 3G-enabled devices —  such as medical alert devices, tablets, smartwatches, and home security systems — may also stop working in 2022.

The nation’s three major wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) announced plans to discontinue 3G service in favor of 4G (LTE) and 5G services in 2022. According to the FCC, AT&T will suspend service in February, T-Mobile/Sprint will suspend service between March and July, and Verizon will discontinue service at the end of 2022.

According to a press release from the Maryland Department of Emergency Management:

Most users of these services will be notified directly by the carriers if this discontinuation affects them. However, users of older phones used for 9-1-1 only purposes may not be notified if they do not have active service with the provider.

It has long been the practice of some organizations for the homeless or domestic violence shelters to provide clients with older phones with no service, since those phones could still be used to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Users of those older 9-1-1 only phones should be aware that they may not work after 3G service is discontinued.

Low-income individuals who are concerned that their 9-1-1 only phones may no longer be supported should consider applying for service through the federal Lifeline Program. Information regarding eligibility and participating providers can be found at www.lifelinesupport.org.

Visit the Maryland Department of Emergency Management website for more information.