A disruption is coming for millions of 3G connected devices in America.
AT&T is shutting down its 3G wireless network for good on February 22. Verizon and T-Mobile aren’t far behind turning their 3G systems off beginning in the 3rd quarter of 2022.
Carriers are forcing an end to several critical devices used for safety and emergencies.
Burglar alarms no longer able to call police
Many home and office security systems connected by 3G wireless are in need of a service technician visit in order to work after 3G shuts down. The Alarm Industry Communications Committee believes there are 5 million 3G-connected alarm systems that have yet to be converted for 4G. The Covid pandemic threw a wrench into many alarm companies’ capacity to transition customers along with the inability to get access to customers during the pandemic.
My own ADT system uses 3G and will no longer be able to connect to 24/7 monitoring to report a break-in or fire. ADT’s messages have been clear about our alarm no longer being able to call paramedics, police, and fire department, but I put it off.
As Covid lingered, so did my desire to have an alarm company technician in our house since alarm systems using 3G cannot be fixed remotely.
Medical Alert devices cannot call for help
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” devices known as personal emergency response systems that rely on 3G using cellular signals to connect to a monitoring center need to be replaced with more current 4G models.
The Medical Monitoring Association says that 6 million people rely on medical emergency response devices many of which are based on 3G communications that its member companies have been trying to upgrade before the plug is pulled on 3G.
Many medical alert devices made before 2019 use 3G to operate and will cease operating. If you have a personal emergency response device made before 2019, you should check with the manufacturer to make sure it will be able to call for help after 3G is turned off.
Phones that rely on 3G cannot dial 911
Phones that rely on 3G will no longer be able to use data, text, or voice – including making 911 emergency calls. Phones aren’t the only devices becoming obsolete.
Home security systems, fire detection, wearable medical alert devices, and automobile SOS devices may need an immediate update in order to continue working.
Some car features will stop working
While your iPhone or Android may be just a year or so old, the automotive industry has been hanging on to 3G up until the 2021 model year. That means that carmakers will either need to implement a fix or features using 3G like in-navigation traffic, location, WiFi hotspots, emergency SOS call services, remote lock and unlock of doors, smartphone app connectivity, voice assistants and voice-enabled services like OnStar will not work.
GM has said that its popular OnStar voice connected service will no longer function without an update for several vehicles made in model years 2015 through 2021 including Chevy, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick. See how GM is updating OnStar here.
A small amount of 2015 model year GM vehicles will require a hardware upgrade, while most cars and trucks can be fixed with an over-the-air software update to transition from 3G to a 4G wireless connection automatically.
You can see if your GM car will be impacted by the 3G shutdown by entering in your VIN for Chevy, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac cars and trucks here at GM’s site.
Some automakers can’t fix 3G remotely and are charging hundreds of dollars to do the upgrade within service centers. Tesla charges $200 flat for its early model to be brought out of 3G while some cars like an early BMW i3 says that its early i3 does not have a fix and others are simply planning let connected features become worthless.
Prisoner 3G ankle monitors won’t be able to track criminals
More troubling is that several prison ankle monitors will no longer be able to track convicted criminals. At least one manufacturer of these trackers used for criminals on probation and parole says it has not been able to update many of its 3G devices.
It remains to be seen how law enforcement will contend with a system no longer capable of monitoring the whereabouts of child abusers, sex offenders, and drunk drivers.
School bus tracking won’t work
Many school districts still using 3G systems will no longer be able to track the location of school buses nor deliver alerts and warning messages to bus drivers through onboard technology. It’s unknown how many school buses will lose their connection when 3G is turned off for good at this point.
Action you need to take to avoid disruption
If you fall into any of these categories, follow these guidelines to keep your devices working.
Security Alarm systems. Check your home security systems webpage or call them to see how they are handling upgrades from 3G and to see if your system is in need of an update.
Medical alerts made before 2019. Reach the manufacturer to see if the personal alert will be able to summons help after 3G is shutdown.
Phones. If you have an older phone or pay-as-you-go phone reach out to your carrier directly to see if you need an update.
For those with an older Tracfone, you can text MIG to 611611 to find out. Also, if you plan to no longer use a phone, make sure to cancel the service so that you do not continue to receive a bill.
Check which wireless network your phone is using if you are not sure
For Android phones, tap Settings > then Network and Internet > now tap Mobile Network. If it says 4G or 5G you are good to go, but if you see 3G you will need a new phone.
For iOS devices including iPhone 5 and earlier, open Settings > tap Cellular > Cellular Data Options. If you see 3G it’s finally time for a new iPhone.
Alarm Systems. Contact your alarm system customer service to see if your system is 3G cellular-based in need of an update.
Cars and Trucks.
- GM cars: as noted above, you can see if your GM car will be impacted by the 3G shutdown by entering in your VIN for Chevy, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac cars and trucks here at GM’s site.
- BMW says there is no fix for an early i3 model car. There are some 260,000 Jaguar and Land Rover luxury vehicles that could be hit by 3G.
- Toyota and Lexus won’t help retrofit previous 3G-fitted models at all.
No matter what make car you drive, check with your dealer or online to see how it may be impacted.
Disrupted Kindle readers, iPads, and smartwatches
Less critical 3G devices will also be disrupted and fail to connect including older Kindles, iPads, and smartwatches.
The challenge is compounded when you consider that most users of older technology are our aging loved ones. That is why the AARP has asked the FCC to delay the AT&T shutdown until at the earliest December.
AT&T says the FCC does not have the authority to stop their 3G service shutdown that it argues needs to end in order to make room for its newer 5G rollout.
Now is the time to ask yourself if you or any people you love have any of these 3G-connected devices that need to be updated asap.
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