AT&T Shuts Down 3G, and Impact Could Be Wide

It might affect everything from car navigation systems to home alarms
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2022 12:54 PM CST
AT&T Shuts Down 3G, and Impact Could Be Wide
The iPhone 5S, left, and iPhone 5c are displayed in this 2013 file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

If your home alarm or even your vehicle's roadside assistance system starts going kerblewy in the next few days, it might have something to do with this: AT&T is shutting down its 3G network as of Tuesday, reports CNN. The move is part of a shift on the part of wireless networks to retire 3G after 20 years, now that more advanced 4G and 5G networks are in use. T-Mobile ends its 3G service in July and Verizon at the end of this year, per CNET. Tuesday's move by AT&T will affect older phones running on 3G, but the company doesn't anticipate too much of a problem on that front because it says less than 1% of its mobile traffic runs on 3G. It's been doling out free replacement phones over the last two years or so.

The bigger impact might be beyond phones, notes Axios. For example, some autos connected to 3G will see automatic crash notifications no longer work. Consumer Reports has a list of affected vehicles and which companies are offering software fixes—not all are, meaning the feature will be kaput in those cases. It's also possible that 10% of public school buses might lose GPS. And then there's this quote from Harold Feld of the tech policy group Public Knowledge: "We are heading to alarmaggedon," he tells Axios.

He's referring to home-alarm systems that might be rendered temporarily useless. USA Today also has a primer on all this: "The wireless network supports countless other devices such as e-book readers, vehicle SOS services, home alarms, medical alert devices, and more," it reads. For those unsure whether their devices are on 3G, or what to do if they are, AT&T has a Q&A. (More 3G network stories.)

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