All three major wireless carriers in plans to begin shutting down 3G networks
Individuals with certain older phones are being forced to upgrade, with 3G networks set to begin shutting down as providers shift to 4G and 5G exclusivity.
AT&T says it has been communicating with its 3G customers that it will be moving its subscribers to 4G and 5G networks.
“For nearly two years, we have been communicating with consumers via direct mail, emails and text messages and we will continue to do so as we help them navigate this transition,” AT&T told CNN Business, in a statement. “This includes providing free replacement phones to a substantial majority of customers.”
The replacement devices provided to customers are typically the 4G versions of smartphones with the same operating systems, according to the company.
3G networks first launched back in 2002, eventually changing the game for smartphones after the iPhone first launched near the end of that decade.
Wireless companies have since moved on to 4G and 5G networks, however, with all three major wireless carriers beginning to move to shut down their 3G networks.
AT&T has said it will begin shutting down the networks on Feb. 22, with T-Mobile and Verizon saying they plan to cut off 3G operations by the end of the month and year, respectively.
Impacted individuals will be those using 3G flip phones, 3G Kindles, iPhone 5 or older versions, certain Android phones, and various wearable devices.
“There is always a risk of people losing service or devices being disconnected from the network,” Dimitris Mavrakis, senior director at market research firm ABI Research, told CNN Business. “Mobile operators make significant attempts to minimize this, but there will always be devices that are left out.”
According to Verizon, nearly all of its customers have already made the shift to 4G or 5G networks, while AT&T says less than 1% of its mobile data traffic still originates from 3G networks, reports CNN Business.