SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Remember when 3G service was all the rage for your mobile phone? Starting on 2/22/22, 3G will begin to go extinct, as carriers begin to phase the service out.
It was rough, but 3G first brought web surfing to your phone, beyond the standard phone calls and text messages.
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AT&T is leading the change.
“Spectrum is a finite resource. The radio airwaves are a finite resource,” said Roger Cheng with CNET. “They need to repurpose them to bolster their existing services to 4G, 5G.”
This isn’t just about your phone. Ankle monitors, school buses, alarm systems and companies like LifeLine all use 3G service to provide constant low-level monitoring services. The plan was for all of those services to upgrade to 4G and then the pandemic hit.
“All of our companies were well on our way to working on it in March of 2020, we were basically shut down,” said John Brady, COO of Connect America and Lifeline. “We were unable to go into businesses and homes and get to the old 3G system and put the new 4G in. We lost 15 to 18 months because of the pandemic.”
It’s not just home systems — but also public transit.
The NEXT systems that give the waiting time for the next bus at Muni bus shelters around San Francisco are also affected by the switch.
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“We had originally planned to have a perfect sync with the replacement of all of our wayfinding equipment in our bus shelters, but because it is 2021 and 2022 – the materials were not available on time we are re-arranging our existing services to make sure that we can continue to have real time predictions at locations where we have the most riders,” said Jeffrey Tumlin of SFMTA at a recent board meeting.
Muni is installing 4G kits to the extent that supply chain issues allow and adding QR codes at shelters so riders can get accurate data about bus arrivals.
“I think what will happen is people will be amazed at how many things they have working in their environment that all of a sudden is not going to work. So it is far more than just life safety, but certainly we’re most concerned about lives that will be at risk,” said Brady.
“Estimates range, they’re aren’t clear numbers on this, but estimates range from 3 million to 10 million people have a 3G phone and come Tuesday their service will cease to work,” said Cheng.
Best advice? If you have an iPhone5 or older or use any of these services — call your vendor today.
“Once that service is out – it’s going to be more difficult to get in touch with customer service,” adds Cheng. “If your phone is dead, there is no way to connect it. You have to physically go to a store and sort this mess out.”
AT&T is the first, but other mobile carriers have the same plans to end 3G service this year as well, with Sprint looking at the end of March, and Verizon and T-Mobile in July.
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Betty Yu contributed to this report.