When are mobile carriers shutting down 3G networks in the US?

When are carrier shutting down 3G networks in the US?
With all the talk about 5G and how it’s the future of our communication, it’s easy to forget that plenty of people haven’t even transitioned to 4G yet.

According to Statista about 12% of wireless service users are still relying on 3G connectivity. The reasons for that vary. A research conducted by OpenSignal showed that only a small percentage of these users remain on 3G because they lack 4G coverage, about 12.7%. The vast majority, 87.2% have access to 4G and even own a 4G capable device, but don’t have a 4G plan.

So, it seems then, that it’s mostly a matter of choice to refuse the benefits (and costs) of 4G. That choice will be going away sooner or later as carriers transitioning to 5G and sunsetting 3G. Carriers are eager to free up the frequencies used by 3G and utilize them for better 4G and 5G coverage. If you want to learn more about 5G, check our 5G bands cheat sheet.

But when exactly is 3G being phased out? Well, let’s take a look at what the major carriers have said about it!

When will Verizon shut down its 3G network?

Verizon is the biggest carrier in the US but also the one that’s looking to get rid of 3G the fastest. The company initially planned to stop 3G support at the start of 2020 but has since postponed these plans.

The new end date for Verizon’s 3G is the end of 2020, according to the carrier’s website. After that, phones that don’t have 4G or have it but don’t support HD Voice, such as iPhone 5S and models older than that, won’t work on Verizon’s network.

Considering even basic phones support 4G these days, the forced upgrade won’t break anyone’s bank. And if you’re the type of person that refuses to get a smartphone, check our best basic phones article for the best options on the market right now.

When will T-Mobile shut down its 3G network?

T-Mobile is in the process of merging its network with that of Sprint and it appears that killing 3G is not on the Un-Carrier’s agenda for now. Team Magenta hasn’t made any official announcements regarding the sunsetting of 3G yet.

Some estimates point towards late 2021, early 2022 as to when T-Mobile might switch off 3G permanently. Having access to two full-fledged networks after the merger with Sprint gives T-Mobile more leeway in what bands and frequencies it can offer to customers. This is probably a big reason why shutting down 3G is not high on the carrier's priority list. That and its specialists being busy combining two networks into one. Sooner or later, however, the 3G era will come to an end on T-Mobile as well.

We’ll update this article as soon as there’s a statement on exactly when T-Mobile is pulling the plug on 3G.

When will AT&T shut down its 3G network?

Unlike T-Mobile, AT&T has a very concrete schedule for turning off its 3G network. The end date is set for February 2022. This gives customers almost two years to finally make the switch to a 4G-capable device and the appropriate service plan.

Keep in mind that in early 2022, likely all midrange phones and probably even some budget phones will come with 5G support. This means that some users will be able to basically skip a full generation of communications technology.

Of course, 4G isn’t going away anytime soon and users will rely on it most of the time. In fact, 4G will probably be around for much longer than 3G. So, if you’re not a fan of 5G, which some conspiracies paint as dangerous, you can potentially avoid it until 6G comes along at some point in the future. By then, we might be daily driving smart glasses instead of phones.

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