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Millions of 3G devices are about to stop working

AT&T is first wireless company to shut down its entire 3G network on Feb 22

by Kurt Knutsson

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.

Take a moment to share this article with people you love.

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Ann Loe February 17, 2022 - 5:14 am

I rely on your advice thru FOX. Thank you

Joel Lee February 17, 2022 - 5:14 am

First time on your website. Saw you on Fox & Friends, what an eye opener, had no idea 3G was shutting down. Love the website.

Sharon Haught February 17, 2022 - 5:15 am

Would you please give step by step instructions for obtaining info from GM? The site you lst takes me to a page that has no place to list my VIN.

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 5:23 am

Hi Sharon – You can also check this OnStar 3G page. https://www.onstar.com/us/en/support/3g-network-shutdown

Dennis M Rogers February 17, 2022 - 3:04 pm

We just ran our GM Vin # – it’s saying that 3G is on Models 2015 and Younger – our’s is a 2008 and on 2G and not affected at this time. However, GM will contact us when the time comes for upgrading to 5G from 2G…hope this helps.

Brad Barefoot February 17, 2022 - 5:19 am

5G really ? It’s way past time to stop forcing people to waste their time, their money, and throw away perfectly good electronic devices just to please the few who crave the next fastest phone. How many homes will broke into due to 3G calling not being available ? How many people will die when their *medic alert devices fail to work ? How many people’s automotive hands free devices, nav/systems, *on-star, etc will stop working ? Like the change in television that really doesn’t work well for us in rural areas forced on us by obama … what will be the final fallout ? And lastly … how many hundreds of millions of dollars will have to be spent to “upgrade or replace” devices that worked perfectly before 5G was forced on us ?

Terry February 17, 2022 - 5:27 am

I tried to check on my new chevy truck at the site you put on here but all I got was an invitation to buy a new truck. That didnt help me very much but thanks anyway..

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 11:50 am

Hi Terry – try this link. The link in the article for GM cars and trucks has also been corrected.

Diane Kempken February 17, 2022 - 6:49 am

I have a 2017 Cadillac XT5. Is there anything else, other than OnStar that will be affected by this 3G discontinuation??

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 11:52 am

Hi Diane – For GM cars and trucks including your Cadillac XT5 fall into a variety of potential 3G disruptions. Most of the issues involve the same 3G connection used by OnStar. Here is the link to check GM vehicles.

Jim Rodrigues February 17, 2022 - 7:09 am

You’ve sent me to GM site that just wants to sell me a new car, it doesn’t tell me anything I want to know about if my car needs fixing for this dumb 3G crap.

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 11:48 am

Hi Jim – That’s just like them! In this case, the original link was sending you to wrong spot from my mistake. The link has been corrected. You can use this link for GM cars to see how 3G may be impacting your car or truck.

Richard February 17, 2022 - 7:23 am

I appreciate the warning regarding 3G as it affects certain model/year cars and trucks. However the site you mentioned in your article certainly is not user-friendly as I tried for 10 to 20 minutes to find where I could type in my VIN number. After an exhaustive search, I gave up and had to go look myself. I think there needs to be more detail in going to that site if it indeed does allow you to cross check your VIN number with affected 3G termination.

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 11:46 am

Hi Richard – you are right. Sorry for the exhaustive search… I have corrected the link to GM cars covering Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac cars and trucks. Not all car makes/models have decided to address this end to 3G the same way. Some are very customer focused with easy, free solutions, others want to charge a fee to upgrade your vehicle, while Toyota and Lexus has decided to offer no solution allowing 3G connected features like remote door lock/unlock, navigation live traffic and entertainment systems to simple stop. Best thing to do, is first check your car or truck makers site for 3G or call the service department at your local dealer to ask about your vehicle.

Joan Clark February 17, 2022 - 7:33 am

How do I know if my vehicle is 3G?

Linda Thompson February 17, 2022 - 8:20 am

I happily have the first generation Apple SE iPhone. And I just called AT&T about this matter, and they said I am totally unaffected by it as I am already on their 5G network anyway. I have an extremely low-mileage 2010 Corolla, so I’m guessing this doesn’t affect THAT either! Bigger things in this world to be concerned over, people!

G. February 17, 2022 - 8:52 am

I stand with Mr. Barefoot’s comments. I would add that most of this goes beyond understanding for the elderly and mentally disadvantaged. AND, in this abysmal economy, who can afford to upgrade car, phone, software, etc. I realize this goes beyond this website’s responsibility, but not all voices are being heard. 5G should be optional, not a requirement.

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 11:59 am

G. – Agreed. It bugs me to no end when a perfectly good functioning piece of technology we have already spent money for is force out of working because some bean counters at big tech and wireless providers choose to no longer support it without any regard to its impact on everyday people like us. What do you think about a law making it mandatory for tech companies to support products they sell so long as customers want to keep using them? If they want to force something we own that works just fine to stop working altogether, maybe they should be forced to offer a free solution to fix it.

Sharon Brink February 17, 2022 - 9:36 am

for android phones you say go to settings and then internet and network there is not any of those on my Samsung S20 FE 5g settings??

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 12:16 pm

Hi Sharon – For most Samsung Galaxy phones, try this: Launch Settings from your phone> tap Connections > select Mobile Networks> then look under Network mode for anything other than 2G or 3G. If you see 4G, 5G or LTE your phone is current and no longer relying on 3G only.

Larry LaLonde February 17, 2022 - 11:48 am

The electronic world was going to end due to the year 2000. If anyone is old enough to remember the Y2K scare that was being tossed around at that time you will appreciate the lack of planning that went into the 5G rollout. The economic impact of this could be far worse than anything that they were promising for Y2K. The comments from G were spot on. The middle class, elderly and poor are going to be hurt the most with this unnecessary rush to have more ways to post your life on line to your followers.

Daryl February 17, 2022 - 12:47 pm

1st time on your site. Will the 3G shut down affect SuriusXM radio on older vehicles? Thanks for all the great info.

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 3:11 pm

Hi Daryl – your SiriusXM radio should be just fine since it uses satellite connection instead of 3G.

Kathy Holbrook February 17, 2022 - 3:19 pm

How do we find out about our 2019 Toyota and our internet service with ATT?

Kurt Knutsson February 17, 2022 - 3:32 pm

Hi Kathy – I just found this link from Toyota relating to impact to various models from 3G shutting down. (I think they may need to update the 3G network shutdown dates published at Toyota – it may be outdated.)

Cathy February 18, 2022 - 8:02 am

Hi Kurt, your spots on FOX and website are so helpful.

I have an iphone 7plus and when I check the settings I see two option:
LTE (which is checked) and 3G. Am I ok since LTE is checked or do I need to get a new phone?

Kurt Knutsson February 18, 2022 - 8:21 am

Hi Cathy – You are correct. When you see 4G, 5G or LTE you are good to go. The only concern is when the only network you see is 2G or 3G alone. iPhone 5 was the last version from Apple that relies on 3G. If you have an iPhone 6 or later, you are all set and already on 4G or newer networks.

Cathy February 18, 2022 - 11:50 am

Thank you Kurt!!


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