What the Tech? Why Some Smartphones Will Soon Stop Working

A few weeks ago a good friend asked why he had gotten an email from his wireless carrier notifying him his phone will no longer work on their network.

This morning someone else sent me an email asking the same question. She had been contacted by her carrier Consumer Cellular saying her older phone must be replaced by August 31st.

They both thought it couldn’t be possible. Why would a phone just stop working on a network?

The answer is simple: the old 3G networks are being phased out.

Cell towers that were erected 5-10 years ago carry the 3G and 4G networks that all smartphones connect to. Now that 5G connectivity is being pushed out all over the country, those wireless companies need more bandwidth.

The decision was simple: shut down the 3G network and use the bandwidth to connect customers to the much faster 5G network.

That has been in the process for some time but now it appears all of the wireless companies will shut down the 3G networks sometime next year.

AT&T has announced a shutdown date of February 2022 while Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint will shut their 3G networks down in December of 2022.

Those dates have changed in recent months as those companies push back the switch but it appears now the dates are set. If your phone doesn’t connect to 4G, it will no longer connect to any network.

Which phones are affected? Most phones 7 years old or older, which includes the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S. There is a list here of all phones that will continue working on the AT&T 4G network. Some phones, such as the iPhone 12 and up will also work on the 5G networks.

An easy way to check your phone is to look in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. If you see 4G, LTE, or 4G LTE, your phone is safe and will continue to work after the 3G networks are shut down.

So while the letters being sent to customers notifying them of the 3G shutdown, customers will have a little more time to purchase a new phone.

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