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3G in the US rides into the sunset

Verizon confirmed that it shut down its 3G network on December 31, 2022. That means all three of the nation's big wireless network operators have now discontinued 3G.

Mike Dano

January 3, 2023

3 Min Read
3G in the US rides into the sunset

Verizon confirmed to Light Reading that it shut down its 3G CDMA network at the end of 2022.

"Since 2016, we have stated publicly that we have been actively decommissioning our 3G CDMA network. As of December 31, 2022, months after our competitors shut off their networks completely, we decommissioned the network," the operator wrote in response to questions from Light Reading Tuesday.

"Initially, we announced we would close down our 3G network in 2019. However, we extended our shut off date to the end of 2022 in order to care for our customers and give them every effort to minimize disruptions to their service as they moved to newer and more advanced technologies. That outreach included proactively communicating through billing messages, digital and traditional outreach and even sending some customers updated devices proactively. If any customer needs support to start service on our 4G or 5G networks, they should call our customer service line at 800-922-0204," Verizon said.

The company declined to say how many customers might be affected by the move.

Figure 1: (Source: Holmes Garden Photos/Alamy Stock Photo) (Source: Holmes Garden Photos/Alamy Stock Photo)

Nonetheless, Verizon's move officially brings the 3G era to a close in the US. AT&T turned off its 3G network on February 22, 2022, despite warnings from home security companies, alarm operators and others that use it. T-Mobile dismantled Sprint's 3G CDMA network on March 31, 2022, and its 4G LTE network on June 30, 2022. The operator then shuttered its own 3G UMTS network on July 1, 2022.

Thousands of customers have been affected by the various moves. For example, T-Mobile told the SEC that its overall network decommissioning efforts resulted in the removal of 57,000 postpaid accounts in the first quarter of 2022 and 69,000 postpaid accounts in the second quarter of 2022. Indeed, Verizon has already reported that its new TracFone prepaid business lost 402,000 customers in the second quarter of 2022 and another 102,000 in the third quarter due to "the shutdown of our competitors' 3G networks." Verizon is working to transition all of TracFone's customers onto its own network after having closed its purchase of the prepaid MVNO operator at the end of 2021.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the shuttering of 3G in the US has not been without hiccups. For example, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Porsche are among the carmakers facing lawsuits stemming from the shutdown of 3G networks in the US.

However, mounting 3G lawsuits haven't stopped other, smaller network operators from planning their own network shutdowns. For example, Wisconsin-based Cellcom said it plans to discontinue data services on its 2G and 3G networks by March 31, 2023. The company said voice calling on the networks will also be retired by December 1, 2023.

As 3G heads to the dustbin, some eyes are now turning to 2G. Incredibly, some operators in the US and globally continue to offer 2G-based calling services even as they shutter 3G. For example, T-Mobile in the US still offers 2G services, though it has signaled it will eventually shutter that network too at some undisclosed point in the future in order to "free up resources and spectrum that will help us strengthen our entire network."

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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