What to Know About the Sunsetting of 2G/3G Networks in Preparation for 5G .
Today, 99% of Americans have access to three or more 4G/LTE networks, but we know that while these options exist, there are still some Americans using 2G or 3G devices and networks. With 5G service expanding rapidly, wireless carriers are planning on retiring 2G and 3G networks to free up spectrum for this new generation of service. We want to provide some consumer tips to help affected customers transition to new devices, which you may have already heard from your operator as many providers have been emailing, texting, and sending letters to customers over the past few months to help them prepare.
Customer service support is on hand to help you make the switch to a 4G- or 5G-ready device. Read on for more information on this transition and to learn what it means for you.
4G and 5G networks and devices bring faster speeds, better coverage, and enhanced security
The promise of our 5G future depends in part on the wireless industry using their spectrum assets most effectively so consumers can experience the most robust speeds and capacity, and innovators can build the products and services that will make our lives more efficient, safe, and productive.
To achieve increased efficiency from their limited spectrum assets, wireless providers “refarm” their spectrum, or repurpose it from one generation of wireless technologies to newer, more efficient generations of wireless.
Today, that work is happening as providers transition spectrum used for 2G and 3G networks to better serve consumers through much more powerful 4G and 5G networks—5G is expected to be 23x more spectrally efficient and up to 156,000x faster than 2G. In preparation for 5G, all nationwide providers have announced plans to sunset 2G and 3G networks by the end of 2022. We’ve been through these technology transitions before with analog networks and other legacy technologies. The evolution away from 2G and 3G is critical to bring even more 4G and 5G coverage—and faster speeds to power advanced applications—to more Americans across the country.
For the majority of Americans, this transition will not impact their service. Providers began phasing out 3G devices years ago with the advent of 4G and smartphones, which became the dominant device type in the marketplace. Very few 2G/3G phones have been sold in recent years and in 2021, providers generally stopped activating 2G or 3G devices in preparation for the transition. Today, fewer than 9% of U.S. wireless connections are 2G or 3G subscriptions, but that amount may vary by national, regional and prepaid providers.
The transition to more advanced technologies provides greater capabilities to consumers and also provides important public safety and cybersecurity benefits as each generation of wireless makes advancements that help secure and safeguard consumers and devices. New devices and networks are more reliable and secure—and work better with the latest 9-1-1 technologies. They also offer more protection from illegal and unwanted robocalls.
Many 2G and 3G devices are not phones
Consumers should think not just about their phones but other devices that connect to a wireless network. If you are a consumer or enterprise customer with 2G and/or 3G Internet of Things devices, you will also need to upgrade them. Such devices could range from alarm systems to connected car modules, to other sensors. 4G and 5G technology is primed and ready for your IoT needs with better service, reliability, and security.
Determining what the transition means for you
To evaluate if it’s time for you to transition to a new device or plan, follow these steps:
- Contact your wireless provider to determine if your phone or device will work on 4G or 5G networks.
- If your phone or device will not be able to transition to 4G or 5G networks, you may be able to upgrade your device online and have it shipped to you or make an appointment in a retail store to select an available new device.
- If you’re purchasing a used or refurbished 4G-ready phone, follow our consumer tips and double check that the device will work on your provider’s network.
- Check to make sure your existing SIM card will fit in your new phone or device. If not, you can get a new SIM card kit from your provider’s local retail store.
- To recycle your old device and related equipment, follow our consumer tips.
For more information on the 2G/3G transition, contact your provider or check out the FCC’s guidance.