It really is a curtain on 3G, one of the key technologies that ushered in the era of the smartphone. In December, Verizon disconnected its customers who were still using the technology, cutting off their phones’ ability to use data, make calls, and text. It was the last major US airline to do this — AT&T has turned off its 3G service in February, and T-Mobile began phasing out its old networks the following month.
Verizon customers with 3G devices have had many warnings. It previously said the network would go offline in 2019, but with one delay after another, the date has slowly pushed back to December 31, 2022. In the meantime, it’s been sending people new, LTE-enabled phones and letters explaining exactly what’s coming to happen. Verizon has told customers with 3G devices that their lines will be suspended starting the day before their billing cycle begins in December. according to Proudly wireless.
Even after that, until the day before their February billing cycle, they can still use the phones for two things: calling 911 and Verizon customer service.
While 3G will still exists in other countries for quite a few more years, Verizon’s deadline is pretty much the end of the line here in the US. The tech didn’t go into that good night gently; carriers postponed their shutdowns several times, there were feuds between Dish and T-Mobile, and you can’t just shut down a network that’s been around for years without breaking something.
Part of the reason airlines retire their networks is to help build their new ones. As we saw earlier this month, T-Mobile’s latest and greatest 5G technology uses spectrum that was once part of its 3G network.
I certainly won’t miss 3G. But I’m glad it existed.
The end of 3G is easy to brush off. After all, that’s what happens with technology, right? The old stuff is giving way to the new stuff as it becomes less and less usable – if you’ve recently had the misfortune of your phone dropping all the way to 3G due to a lack of coverage, you know the network certainly wasn’t offering anything that in comes close to the experience we are used to.
But despite its obsolescence, I think we should bid it a fond farewell and remember it for what it once was, not what it has become. The first 3G phones appeared in the early 2000s, but in the US the network really came into its own with the rise of the smartphone.
When people started getting phones like the iPhone 3G or HTC Dream (also known as the T-Mobile G1), the benefits of a (for the time) fast internet connection became apparent. Browsing the web on the go was no longer a niche activity for people with specific business phones, but something more and more people did every day, while accessing images and music on the go changed the way we interact with media.
That’s not to say we should still keep it – I’d be way too late even if I thought that was the best move. I just ask that you take a moment to consider the technology that has helped build the mobile-first world we live in; even if this is the last time you ever think about it.