Will your cell phone work in the new year?

Major cell phone companies will be shutting down their third generation or 3G networks in 2022, potentially making your cell phone useless.
Your device may stop working in 2022
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:25 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Major cell phone companies will be shutting down their third generation or 3G networks in 2022, potentially making your cell phone useless.

Once the 3G network is shut down, 3G cellphones will not work.

“It’s been coming, no secret. What is no secret is by the time we get comfortable with 5G. 6G, 7G is already in the talks,” said Ozlem Kilic, the Associate Dean of Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee.

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are all retiring and decommissioning networks at different times.

“3G was operating at about two gigahertz and 5G will be all the way up to 95 gigahertz so it is really significantly higher frequency which means it will be a lot faster,” said Kilic.

The first is AT&T shutting down its 3G network in February 2022. AT&T stated on its website for customers impacted to “act now.”

“FCC came and said all providers need to shut down their 3G service to allow faster technologies,” said Aly Fathy, a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UT.

He explained much older phones like the iPhone 5 and earlier models along with some Androids, iPads, Amazon Kindles, and alarm systems may be impacted.

Sprint and T-Mobile merged in April 2020. As of Mar. 31st, 2022 Sprint’s older 3G (CDMA) network will be retired than on Jun. 30th, 2022 Sprint’s LTE network will be retired. By Jul. 1st, 2022 T-Mobile’s older 3G UMTS network will be retired.

Verizon stated on its website, “We are actively decommissioning our 3G CDMA network and expect to be completed by no later than Dec. 31st, 2022.”

“My biggest concern is our rural communities will not have the same advantage as switching to 5G as quickly as the urban ones because companies don’t have the monetary incentives to move to rural areas,” said Kilic.

There’s also worry that rural regions may not get 5G access in time, leaving some people with no service at all.

“The digital divide will be too big to recover from. Imagine not having Internet, it will be even worse than that with lack of access to 5G so we need to as a government to make sure we come up with solutions to provide access to everyone,” explained Kilic.

If you need help, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides a temporary discount for eligible households during the pandemic.

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