5G and Beyond

T-Mobile will shut down its 3G UMTS network in 287 days

T-Mobile set off a firestorm of controversy when it announced plans earlier this year to shutter the 3G CDMA network it acquired from Sprint by January 1 of next year.

Indeed, even the US Department of Justice and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have said they would look into the matter over worries the shutdown would leave low-income Americans without service.

T-Mobile hasn't wavered on the topic. And in recent days, the company appeared to double down on the issue with an announcement that it would also shutter its other 3G network – the 3G UMTS network T-Mobile first launched in 2008.

"As of July 1, 2022, T-Mobile's older 3G UMTS network will be retired," the operator wrote on its website. Just a few weeks ago, the operator did not provide a firm shut down date for that network on its website.

However, T-Mobile still has no clear timeframe for its 2G network retirement. "We've also shared that we plan to retire T-Mobile's older GSM 2G network as well, but no date has been set. We will update this page with any additional information in the future," the operator wrote on its website.

T-Mobile's stance on 2G dovetails with strategies employed by other operators around the world, a situation that reflects the incredible durability of a technology first introduced more than four decades ago.

T-Mobile and other US operators are hoping to shutter aging networks in order to refarm spectrum toward newer, faster 5G networks. For example, AT&T has said it plans to shutter its own 3G network in order to provide more lowband 850MHz spectrum in support of its planned midband C-band 5G network. According to a recent filing the operator made with the FCC, AT&T still counts millions of prepaid and postpaid customers on its 3G network.

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

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