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2G/3G/4G

T-Mobile UMTS, LTE network shut-downs likely affect more than 1M devices

T-Mobile has pushed ahead with plans to shutter its older wireless networks throughout yesterday and into today.

According to T-Mobile's own "network evolution" webpage, the operator dismantled Sprint's 4G LTE network yesterday (June 30) and will shutter its own 3G UMTS today (July 1).

"Customers who needed to take action as a result of these retirement efforts were notified well ahead of time and received an offer for a free 5G replacement device," a T-Mobile representative told Light Reading.

Indeed, the operator is offering bill credits to customers who switch their Sprint SIM to a T-Mobile SIM, according to The T-Mo Report.

T-Mobile has said its shutdown efforts pave the way for customers to upgrade to its 5G network.  
(Source: T-Mobile)
T-Mobile has said its shutdown efforts pave the way for customers to upgrade to its 5G network.
(Source: T-Mobile)

The moves follow T-Mobile's closure of Sprint's 3G CDMA network on March 31, and its dismantling of Sprint's nascent 5G network in 2020 (a move that recently earned T-Mobile a lawsuit). AT&T turned off its own 3G network on February 22, and Verizon is scheduled to shutter its 3G CDMA network on December 31, 2022.

On the company's most recent earnings call in April, T-Mobile officials disclosed that 212,000 postpaid phones and 349,000 other gadgets, mostly IoT devices, were affected by its 3G CDMA shut down earlier this year. Company officials suggested that around 300,000 postpaid phones and between 700,000 to 900,000 IoT-style devices would be affected by its network shut down efforts this week.

For its part, AT&T said its own 3G shutdown in February affected 400,000 postpaid phones, costing the operator around $300 million.

The moves come as no real surprise. As wireless technology improves, network operators routinely introduce new generations, or Gs, of connection technology. However, given their finite spectrum resources, they often discontinue services for older Gs in order to reallocate that spectrum into networks using newer and more capable Gs. As PCMag noted, a number of smaller wireless operators in the US are also planning to shut down their older wireless networks.

However, it's worth pointing out that some 2G networks have avoided the trend. Indeed, T-Mobile has yet to schedule a date to shut down its own 2G network.

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

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