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Are you ready for the 3G sunset?

News Analysis
Aug 17, 20213 mins
5GCellular NetworksNetworking

Starting next year carrier networks will end their 3G support. Make sure you're prepared.

lte cellular service cell tower mobile phone binary
Credit: mrdoomits / Getty Images

All good things must come to an end, and that includes the 3G network that has been around since the late aughts. Telcos are supporting and building out vastly superior 5G networks, and they don’t want to spend time and money maintaining older technologies that aren’t used much.

Removing older 3G towers makes space for 5G equipment and simplifies network management. Plus, some 3G spectrum can be used for 4G data, although 3G can’t be used for 5G, and 4G still has some years left.

Verizon is cutting off 3G on Dec. 31, 2022; AT&T is turning off its 3G network in February 2022; and T-Mobile has multiple dates in 2022 for the various networks it manages since it is a mix of T-Mobile and Sprint legacy networks as a result of their merger.

This shouldn’t really affect too many phones, which went off the market almost as soon as 4G arrived in 2012. However, 3G networking can be found in other devices, like cars, home alarms, security cameras, emergency call boxes, and other devices. As of mid-2019, there were more than 80 million active 3G devices in North America, according to RCR Wireless News.

Many of these devices were never upgraded to 4G because they gained no benefit from the faster network. Their data traffic was so low as to see no difference between 3G and 4G. One of the biggest potential gotchas for IT is security cameras and alarms that are deployed around offices and facilities. Many use 3G and Wi-Fi as a fallback.

This presents one of the most unpalatable scenarios for IT: migrating, replacing, and upgrading hardware with no ROI because all you are doing is keeping things as they were. But that’s also a good opportunity to take inventory and look over old equipment that’s been deployed for a decade or more and see what can be done. Who knows what you will find?

Back during the Y2K countdown, the CIO of AlliedSignal said that the inventory AlliedSignal was forced to make uncovered redundant systems, zombie systems that weren’t being used at all, and other extraneous systems that came along with numerous acquisitions. He said AlliedSignal went from 100 million total lines of code to 50 million just through consolidation and their IT systems were much cleaner as a result.

So take this shutdown as an opportunity to clean house and check systems that might have been deployed and forgotten 10 years ago.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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