For years Verizon has said it plans to shut down its CDMA 3G network by the end of this year. And that plan still stands -- unless you're one of a select few Verizon enterprise customers that has a contract with the carrier to keep using 3G.
"We've had a longstanding and well-thought-out plan to decommission 3G and move on to other technologies," Verizon's Nicki Palmer, the operator's chief network officer, told Light Reading. "We've stopped also approving new devices that have 3G. So that's another step that's behind us. And we have said publicly at the end of the decade we would be turning down our 3G network. I will tell you however that we do have several contracts with large enterprise customers that will keep our 3G network up for a little longer than the end of the decade."
Palmer did not disclose the identity of those customers, and said only that the 3G network would remain available to those customers for a "few" years.
"The demand for the 3G network has come down so rapidly that it's in our best interest to get to what I would call a very thin layer of coverage of 3G," she said. "Like one carrier's worth, for example, of coverage across the network, that will properly service those enterprise customers that are on the 3G network, and some of the IoT applications that were built off 3G. So that's where we're at."
Continued Palmer: "Frankly you don't want a 3G device anymore ... The faster that we get to that thin layer of coverage, the better all around, because we get to repurpose that spectrum onto the 4G network, where the demand is."
Verizon initially hinted in 2012 that it would eventually discontinue 3G service, and in 2016 the carrier put a firm date on at plan: Dec. 31, 2019. And the carrier in July of last year stopped activating 3G phones. However, at least some Verizon enterprise customers will be able to stay on the network for the foreseeable future.
Verizon of course isn't the only wireless network operator to shutter one aging network and replace it with a faster and more efficient network. AT&T for example discontinued service on its 2G wireless network Jan. 1, 2017. According to the operator's filings with the SEC around that time, it counted fully 4 million customers on its 2G network, the bulk of which were IoT devices. (See AT&T Sunsetting 2G, Expanding Mexico LTE.)
Sprint too recently shuttered its WiMAX network. (See Sprint Plots WiMax Shutdown, Backhaul Upgrade.)
Indeed, the network-shutdown situation often stands as an opportunity for vendors across all corners of the industry. For example, vendors like Ericsson and Nokia are able to sell new network equipment to operators like Verizon to replace 3G CDMA service with something better (think 4G and 5G).
And vendors like TransData are able to sell new equipment to the Verizon customers who won't be able to get service on Verizon's 3G network anymore: "In response to Verizon's publicly announced 2019 sunsetting shutdown of 2G and 3G digital cellular service, TransData's U-Com equipped MARK-V meters provide utilities an immediate solution to replace obsolete 2G and 3G cellular equipped electric meters," the company said in a recent release. "TransData's MARK-V Energy Meter provides an advanced revenue metering solution for Generation, Distribution ISO Transmission Grid and Industrial installations incorporating DNP3/Modbus telemetry, Power Quality Monitoring, Site Analysis and more with unmatched accuracy and reliability performance."