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Verizon shuts off 3G wireless network

All three major carriers in the United States have now shut down their older, third-generaiton wireless networks.

All three major carriers in the United States have now shut down their older, third-generaiton wireless networks.

A Verizon Wireless retail store in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia.
A Verizon Wireless retail store in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Rivera via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Some Verizon Wireless customers with older phones are starting the new year looking for an upgrade.

On Sunday, Verizon officially shut down its older, third-generation (3G) wireless network, fulfilling a promise made several years ago to do so.

In 2019, Verizon said it would shut down its 3G network in favor of its newer-generation 4G LTE and 5G networks, which offer the ability to juggle more customers at once while offering subscribers faster download speeds, lower latency and better call quality.

Starting in December, Verizon began suspending lines on accounts where customers were still using older-model devices that were only capable of connecting to the company’s 3G network, including some basic phones, smartphones, network extenders, hotspots and Internet-connected gadgets like old Apple iPads.

The suspension meant customers were no longer able to make or receive phone calls, send or receive basic text messages or use wireless data, though subscribers were still able to make emergency 9-1-1 calls from non-connected devices. Phones that are 4G capable, but not compatible with Verizon’s voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service, are also no longer supported.

Customers were sent several notifications warning of the shutdown and urging them to upgrade their device to ensure they were still compatible with Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G networks.

Now, subscribers who have stubbornly held on to their older technology hoping they will miraculously work despite the warnings are now facing the likelihood that their service will be disconnected entirely, which will happen in February if they do not upgrade to a new device. Once that happens, a customer’s phone number will be lost for good, and they’ll have to start over with a new device and a new account.

Both prepaid and post-paid customers are affected by Verizon’s decision to shut off their older, 3G wireless network. Verizon is not alone in doing so: AT&T shut down its 3G network early last year, and T-Mobile shut down its 3G network a short time later.

While the 3G network has been fully retired across all three carriers, none of them have any plans to sunset their 4G LTE networks (though T-Mobile did close down Sprint’s LTE network in favor of its own last year; T-Mobile and Sprint merged several years ago). AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have plans to support 4G LTE customers with VoLTE-compatible phones and other devices for the foreseeable future, while building out their 5G network with faster speeds and better capacity.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is an award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of experience covering the business of television and radio broadcasting, streaming services and the overall media industry. In addition to his work as publisher of The Desk, Matthew contributes regularly to StreamTV Insider and KnowTechie, and has worked for several well-known news organizations, including Thomson Reuters, McNaughton Newspapers, Grasswire, Comstock's magazine, KTXL-TV and KGO-TV. Matthew is a member of IRE, a trade organization for investigative reporters and editors, and is based in Northern California.

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