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AT&T to shut down 3G network this week

The end of service threatens elderly customers, warns industry group

AT&T is poised to shut down its 3G network this week despite concerns that it could leave emergency notification services useless for users including the elderly.

AT&T originally announced the shutdown of its network in 2019, giving customers three years to transition to its 4G infrastructure. It began recycling some of its 3G spectrum that year to serve the development of its 5G service.

Despite the advanced notice, industry commentators have complained that some services relying on 3G will be badly affected. The Monitoring Association (TMA), a trade association for the professional monitoring industry, warned that the shutdown will affect millions of Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) services often used to monitor elderly people at home.

The pandemic, along with supply chain constraints, have limited companies' ability to obtain and install new products, TMA said. Last month, its Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) petitioned the FCC to delay AT&T's shutdown date.

The shutdown will affect other services including connectivity in cars. Acura is one of several vendors warning that their in-car systems, which offer concierge, collision notification, emergency calling, and real-time traffic information, will no longer work on some vehicles.

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The shutdown also means that phones on the AT&T network not supporting at least 4G will not get data or voice service. This includes Apple iPhones prior to version 6. The company has published a list of phones that will work on its network after the shut-down.

AT&T's 3G shut-down is part of a wider phasing out as other providers sunset their infrastructure. Verizon originally pledged to shut down its CDMA-based 3G network at the end of 2019, but has since delayed it until the end of this year. T-Mobile plans to shut down the T-Mobile UMTS 3G network by July 1 this year. It will also finish shutting down Sprint's CDMA-based 3G network by March 31.

The UK government has pledged to phase out 3G networks by 2033, and Vodaphone has committed to begin its shutdown next year.

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