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The looming shutdown of 3G networks won't just impact older phones.

By Kunal Kashyap

february 23, 2022

With AT&T's 3G network shutting down next week, and other carriers following suit later this year, a range of products require updates to continue working, including some home alarm systems, medical devices such as fall detectors

Just as many mobile carriers have urged customers to swap their older 3G iPhones, Android phones, e-readers and other handheld devices for newer models ahead of the shutdown, other businesses are urging customers to upgrade or replace some of the everyday products and services in their homes and cars before they drop connectivity.

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The 3G shutdown will affect everyday devices

If left unaddressed, the stakes could be high in certain cases. Millions of cars, for example, may no longer have the ability to contact first responders after a collision or receive updates such as location or traffic alerts for built-in GPS systems

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The introduction of 3G in 2002 allowed some early car infotainment systems and home security services -- pioneers in the smart home space -- to connect to the networks. But over time, wireless companies moved on to 4G and more recently 5G networks.

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Now, the major carriers are phasing out 3G technology in the United States and some markets abroad. AT&T (T), which owns CNN's parent company, is shutting it down on February 22; T-Mobile (TMUS) is doing so in the third quarter; and Verizon (VZ) will take this step by the end of the year. As the technology officially becomes obsolete, a scramble is underway to help consumers avoid a disruption.

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For those worried about seeing 4G household devices phased out, don't be. Dimitris Mavrakis, a senior director at market research firm ABI Research, said the shut down of 4G networks won't happen anytime soon, noting "other generations will likely remain in the market for a very long time."

Because 2G introduced mobile voice and 4G introduced mobile broadband, he calls 3G "somewhere in between" and "not ideal for either voice or mobile broadband."

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"Ultimately, 4G is a lot better than 3G," he said. "This is why it's being phased out."

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