The old 3G network is shutting down this week in the US. AT&T, one of the country’s major operators is switching off its legacy cellular standard this week which ushered in the first true experience of the next-level mobile internet. But many have asked for the delay as emergency systems depend on it.
As major telcos step up their 5G game, they are determined to transition away from the traditional 3G network. AT&T is bidding adieu to the network on February 22. Other operators T-Mobile is phasing out its own 3G standard by this summer. Verizon is scheduled for December.
3G started in the US in 2002 under Verizon and others quickly followed. After eight years in 2010, 4G came to smartphones and eroded its predecessor’s once greatly held efficiency with far higher speed. But with 5G birth in 2019, 3G has seen an obvious decline and irrelevancy.
The USA is under heavy pressure to emulate Asian countries in its 5G performance. Its speed on all major operators for 5G remained similar to 4G or slightly better. Meanwhile, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, etc. have achieved greater speeds on their fifth-generation network. China especially is posing a major hindrance to the US for its global 5G dominance. The Asian giant has the world’s largest network of 5G base stations and holds far higher patents than the US. This has forced the US to call on its 5G network to make a giant leap forward. And this is noticeable.
Over the months, US carriers have invested heavily in the 5G spectrum. Verizon and AT&T jointly spent over USD70 billion for the C-Band spectrum 3.7 GHz – 3.98 GHz. After months of tussle and delay over aviation concerns, they launched their Mid-Band 5G with a promise. T-Mobile is using sub-6 GHz 5G spectrum to deliver its 5G speed of around 260 Mbps.
Shutting down 3G will help telcos free up vital resources to boost their 5G broadband performance. Ian Fogg, the vice of analytical firm Opensignal says, “The reason the carriers would like to get rid of old legacy tech is to free up that wireless spectrum.” He adds, “If you switch off the older tech in most markets, most countries, your spectrum license allows you to use that with newer networks like 4G and 5G.”
Once the USA starts shutting down 3G, the devices that only connect to it will be obsolete. And the network’s connectivity is not limited to smartphones but spans crucial systems such as burglar, medical alert devices, and emergency alarms. US media outlets say such devices are old and only connect to 3G. Once operators discontinue the network, these devices will be useless keeping houses without those services.
This is why the country’s home-alarm industry has asked for Federal Communications Commission to delay AT&T’s 3G shut down till December. The FCC meanwhile, said it is monitoring the issue and working to devise a workaround for older phones and devices.
US telcos have long postponed or delayed pushing their 3G shut down earlier. But it seems more than likely that one of the world’s largest telecommunications markets is ending the legacy cellular standard on schedule.
With the US, many countries are on the same path to end their 3G mobile standard. 5G is looming across the world, and 6G hype is already grabbing headlines. It is time for telcos to implement the fifth-generation standard and discontinue legacy cellular standards.
Do we still need a 3G network as we already have 4G broadband and VoLTE for calls? Do leave your opinion in the comments below.