Beginning in January 2022, mobile carriers began shutting down their 3G networks to make room for more advanced network services, such as 5G.

This move to 5G cellular networks promises faster cell phone and internet speeds, but could leave some Pennsylvanians disconnected as they may lose cellphone and data services entirely, including the ability to call 911 and emergency services. Recently, the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) urged residents with cell phones to prepare for the phase out of 3G cellular networks and service.

Phasing out older networks isn’t a new concept for wireless carriers as similar transitions have happened in the past. Many service providers may have programs and resources to help customers through the process.

Below is helpful information to help you though the transition.

When Will the Transition Happen?

Each mobile provider has different plans and timelines for phasing out their 3G capabilities. If you are worried about if/when this will impact you, please contact your mobile provider directly or visit their website. If your carrier is not listed below, it does not mean you will not be impacted.

  • AT&T will shut down its 3G network in February 2022.
  • T-Mobile will shut down the following 3G networks:
    • Sprint 3G CDMA on March 31, 2022
    • Sprint 4G LTE on June 30, 2022
    • T-Mobile 3G UMT on July 1, 2022
  • Verizon will shut down its 3G network on December 31, 2022.

The Federal Communications Commission says other carriers, such as Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and some Lifeline mobile service providers use the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. As a result, phones under those carriers could also be affected.

* Please note: Carriers may begin shutting down portions of their networks before these dates. Please take the necessary action now to continue service.

What Devices Will Be Affected?

Phones/mobile devices

Most users of 3G devices will be notified directly by their mobile service providers. If you have a phone or device from 2012 or before, using your phone to make calls is almost certainly on borrowed time.

  • Contact your mobile provider or visit their website for more information about whether your phone/device may be affected.
  • You may need to upgrade to a newer device to ensure that you can stay connected. Carriers may offer discounted or free upgrades to consumers who need to upgrade.
  • Some devices may only require a software update to enable VoLTE (HD Voice) or other advanced services. If you purchased your phone independent of a mobile provider, you should be able to check whether your device is 4G LTE (with VoLTE or HD Voice) enabled by checking your phone’s settings or user manual.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

If you are an older Pennsylvanian or have a loved one who uses this type of device – a band worn on the wrist or a pendant worn around the neck (commonly called Medical-Alert, Life-Alert or Fall Monitor) that, when activated, results in first responders being notified of an emergency such as a fall – you need to know if your device will continue to work as 3G network service ends. Immediately contact the device manufacturer or the company providing monitoring services for the device. If your device is pre-2019 and is operating on 2G or 3G networks, it is wise to upgrade your device as soon as possible.

Additional Help and Resources

Lifeline

Lifeline is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. Lifeline provides subscribers a discount on qualifying monthly telephone service, broadband Internet service, or bundled voice-broadband packages purchased from participating wireline or wireless providers. The discount helps ensure that low-income consumers can afford broadband service and the access it provides to jobs, healthcare, and educational resources.


Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program is another program from the FCC that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

Additional Resources