AT&T shuts down 3G networks. Here’s how it affects you.

Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon will disconnect their 3G in coming months

Goodbye 3G. AT&T on Tuesday became the first telecom to hang up on its old 3G, third generation, mobile broadband network. It’s a move years in the works, but one that could leave people with older phones, cars, medical monitoring devices and home security systems in a state of disconnect.

The telecoms are freeing up bandwidth to move forward with more 4G and 5G networks, which are faster and more efficient.

Beginning Tuesday, AT&T customers with older phones such as models released before the iPhone 6 and many older Androids will no longer be able to make a call or send a text. Other carriers will shut down their 3G networks in the coming months.

“I think a lot of people have been caught off guard,” said Darryl Greer with AARP’s Older Adults Technology Services, or OATS. "

He’s concerned for the safety of seniors.

“We have a lot of older adults in the community who are using older phones,” he said.

EXPLAINER: Will burglar alarms still work after 3G shutdown?

Tech-savvy Pat Jasso has a new phone, but the 3G sundown still affected her.

“I have an iPad just for playing games and reading, so it’s not an up-to-date one,” she said.

Sure enough, when she checked it, a message from AT&T popped up informing her the device was no longer supported.

Working at AARP’s Senior Planet, Jasso helps people become more tech proficient. She’s concerned about those who no longer have landlines and rely on their older mobile phones.

“It’s no longer an extra accessory,” she said. “It’s become essential to us.”

It’s not just phones, tablets and e-readers that may be affected by the end of 3G.

Some home security systems or high-tech fire detectors may still sound an alarm, but no one will be monitoring them to send help.

Some medical alert systems, lifelines for many seniors, will also be affected if they operate on the 3G network.

“Maybe they push that medical alert button,” Greer said. “They not going to connect to who they need to.”

Even vehicles can be affected. Emergency or SOS systems that rely on 3G will no longer work.

After delays, the sun is setting on 3G. AT&T is first, but the other telecoms will follow. Sprint and T-Mobile will cut off 3G between March and June. Verizon has said it will do so by the end of the year.

The companies have been informing customers of the impending end of 3G for a couple of years. However, the pandemic may have prevented some from allowing technicians into their homes to make updates. And the chip shortage has challenged the production of some new devices.

For many, updates to software or hardware will be needed to be connected.

If you are unsure whether your devices or services are affected, contact the company that provides your service.

Senior Planet also has a hotline for assistance 210-504-4862.

About the Authors

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

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