Retiring your 3G devices as US phase-out begins
To make way for 5G deployments, mobile carriers in the US and worldwide are now in the process of ending services for 3G networks.
What this means is that any device dependent on 3G or the earlier 2G to function simply will no longer work. Leading the switch off, provider AT&T in the US was first to sunset 3G in February of this year, and T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon will follow suit with 2022 shutdowns, all wrapped up by December.
The shut-down of 3G is intended to accommodate the newer and faster 4G LTE and 5G mobile networks. Today, the number of people using 3G-only phones is small — in the hundreds of thousands. If you’re in that group, you’ll need to take action because older devices won’t be migrated to 4G LTE or 5G. They will still power up but won’t be able to connect to a network.
If you have a phone released after 2015 you should be fine, and if you are at risk, your mobile carrier should have told you or offered to replace any outdated devices. For gadgets that have relied on 3G networks for data, the best way to avoid any problems is to upgrade to a new device.
Although plans were slightly delayed due to the pandemic, it is clear wherever you live, 2G and 3G network closures are back on track.
- AT&T closed its 3G network on February 22, 2022.
- T-Mobile has moved its 3G shutdown to July 1, 2022, after initially planning for an October closing in 2021.
- Sprint, now merged with T-Mobile, will close its 3G network on May 31, 2022, and 2G on December 2022.
- Verizon’s 3G network will shut off on December 31, 2022.
- UK’s major carrier BT will phase out 3G by 2023 and 2G by 2033.
- Europe’s biggest mobile network Vodaphone will sunset 3G in 2023.
The move away from these legacy technologies necessitates a transition for both industries and personal users. It might seem strange that most 2G shutdowns are scheduled for later dates, but that’s because it has lower power requirements and is used in IoT devices with long battery life, such as home smart meters. The extended timeframe will help providers get to homes and upgrade devices.
How the shutdown will affect you personally depends on a few things. Although we all rely on 3G and 2G mobile network IoT devices, many people might not be aware of this. If you have 3G for your car’s GPS navigation, for example, it’s worth checking if you can get a free software update from your dealer to avoid problems. The 3G network may also impact remote unlocking and remote start as well as some emergency services contact at the press of a button.
In 2019 there were as many as 80 million 3G devices in use in North America — we’re talking about early e-readers, Kindles, wearable tech, medical alert devices, fire alarms, marine safety devices, and old cellphones. These are not so easy to upgrade if very old. As cnet.com recommends, if you may be impacted, it’s a good idea to go back to where you purchased your device and inquire.
Hopefully, roadmaps prepared by industries and pandemic-related delays reduced the impact on consumers from non-functioning devices. If in any doubt, get in touch with your device provider or see what’s on their website about 2G and 3G closures.
In other news
- The US government removed malware from computer networks. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US has been quietly removing malware from various computer networks worldwide as a means to avoid Russian cyberattacks. According to Engadget, Attorney General Merrick Garland recently announced that this malware was intended to turn the computer networks into a botnet called Cyclops Blink. The US Justice Department identified the group behind this effort as Sandworm, a group connected to the Russian GRU. The GRU may have intended the botnet to run Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, send spam, or otherwise compromise computers and networks around the world.
- Eavesdropping on… mushrooms? It may sound like something out of science fiction, but scientists analyzing electrical signals from fungi suggest that these organisms may be able to communicate with one another. As reported in the Guardian, mushrooms use underground structures called hyphae to emit pulses that, when analyzed, appear to be similar to human speech patterns. Professor Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England used microelectrodes to study the communication of enoki, split gill, ghost, and caterpillar fungi. As he told the Guardian, “We do not know if there is a direct relationship between spiking patterns in fungi and human speech.” However, he noted that “there are many similarities in information processing in living substrates of different classes, families, and species,” so anything is possible.
- Amazon’s Project Kuiper set to launch. The BBC reports that Amazon plans 83 space launches over the next five years in order to place 3,236 satellites into orbit. Like Starlink, these satellites will provide high-speed broadband Internet to customers. According to Amazon, they are targeting individuals and organizations, including relief organizations, that don’t have reliable internet connectivity. Dave Limp, senior vice-president for Amazon Devices & Services claimed that “Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world.”
- Google banned data-harvesting apps. Security researchers at AppCensus discovered code that allowed certain Android apps to gather sensitive data from users’ devices. Information the code captured included precise location data, email addresses, phone numbers, and information about nearby devices. It also could potentially grab data from the clipboard, which might include passwords. Before Google removed and banned the apps on March 25, the code was active on millions of Android devices. Included in the list of apps were several Muslim prayer apps, a QR code and barcode scanner, and a weather widget. BGR included a list of the most popular apps that were running the code.
- UK to launch national NFT. The UK government announced plans this week that the Royal Mint will issue a non-fungible token beginning this summer, according to CNBC. This is part of a larger push in which the government hopes to bring more regulation to the wild world of cryptocurrency. This will include welcoming stablecoins, reviewing the use of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), and the tax status of decentralized finance (DeFi) loans. The government is warming to these new blockchain-powered technologies in the hope of securing its position as a leader in finance, but are they the future or passing fad?
- Twitter to introduce an ‘unmention’ feature. It’s not always good to have your name dropped, and sometimes we wish someone had kept quiet. That’s why Twitter is about to start using a feature that allows users to strike their name from unwelcome Twitter mentions. Cnet News reports that users of the social media platform will soon have the option to ‘Leave this conversation’, which removes the username from a conversation and prevents it from being used again in the same thread. This move could mean some big changes to the way people use the influential global platform, which Twitter believes will be more respectful to users. The date you can start ‘unmentioning’ yourself is yet to be fixed.
Tip of the week
Even though the big guys may have retired your favorite device, your old 3G Apple or Android smartphone is still a valuable commodity. When you recycle it, donate it to charity, or sell it online, your old phone can put a little money back in your pocket.
Companies are willing to pay for your used smartphones so they can reuse and recycle the components. The next time you head to the grocery store, look for one of ecoATM’s device buy-back kiosks. You can even get a price offer for your phone right at home before heading to the store.
Some charities that operate in remote countries always need old, working cell phones, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Doctors Without Borders. There are dozens of organizations that accept non-working devices as donations, as well. So you can help out our global community by donating your old 3G phone to a charity, and in the US, you’ll get an income tax write-off.