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Business & Economics

South Dakota regulators issue warning about phase-out of 3G networks

Image by Bryan Santos from Pixabay
Image by Bryan Santos from Pixabay

State regulators are warning South Dakotans that all major mobile carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T plan to phase out 3G networks in 2022.

Older phones that require 3G networks will lose service.

Phasing out older networks allows providers to focus resources on newer networks, like 5G, instead of maintaining older ones.

“If you have an older mobile phone, you may need to upgrade your device before mobile carriers shut down their 3G network to avoid losing service," explained South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson. "Once your carrier makes this change, older phones, including 3G mobile phones, will be unable to use data services and make or receive calls and texts, including calls to 911. Some older 4G mobile phones that don’t support faster technology may also be affected."

The change could affect medical devices, tablets, smart watches, vehicle SOS services and home security systems.

The exact dates for the transition vary by company. Sprint, which is owned by T-Mobile, has announced that it will shut down its 3G network by Jan. 1, 2022. AT&T will follow suit phasing out 3G by February 2022. Verizon will end 3G service by Dec. 31, 2022. T-Mobile also plans to phase out its 2G and 3G networks, but has not yet announced a deadline.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission urges residents to contact their mobile provider for more information. Some carriers provide lists on their websites of devices that won’t be supported after 3G networks are decommissioned. Some mobile service providers may offer special deals on new devices for those in need of an upgrade. Other devices may only require a software update to enable advanced services.

Programs like Lifeline and Tribal Lifeline and Link Up can assist eligible South Dakotans with the cost of phone or internet services. The Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program may also provide a temporary discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households during the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more, visit the FCC’s website at https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.

For more information on the planned phase out of 3G cellular networks, see the FCC’s guide “Plan Ahead for Phase Out of 3G Cellular Networks and Service” at fcc.gov/telephone.