Network operators have begun the 3G sunset process. But Ting Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) with 289,100 subscriptions, says that many subscribers don’t realize that their service could be disrupted.
Ting’s MVNO service runs on Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint networks.
Verizon is in the process of re-farming 3G bands for LTE and plans to complete the process in December 2020. AT&T plans to sunset its 3G network in early 2022. T-Mobile still uses its Band 4 (1700/2100 MHz) and Band 2 (1900 MHz) for 3G services and has not made any announcement about its sunset of 3G.
GSMA Intelligence’s 2019 Mobile Economy North America report estimated that 17% of U.S. subscribers, or about 47.3 million, are still using 3G networks.
A January survey by Ting Mobile of 1,500 people across all mobile carriers found that 79% of people have no idea that the 3G network is being phased out, and they may need to update their devices. If their service is running on Verizon’s network, they’ll need to make sure their device works by the end of this year.
According to a Ting blog, “It’s also important to note these network upgrades can actually affect certain 4G devices. When 3G infrastructure is decommissioned, this not only negatively affects users with 3G devices but also 4G phones that don’t support Voice over LTE.”
“It’s surprising to see how many 2G and 3G users are unconcerned about their network going away -- this could be an indicator that they don’t realize that their mobile devices will likely just stop working one day,” said Andrew Moore-Crispin, director of Content at Ting Mobile, in a statement.
Analyst Jeff Moore with Wave7 Research said a small percentage of users have 3G-only phones. “There are a few MVNO users who will have to upgrade for continued service as these networks go away,” said Moore. “Most phones in service have 4G and 3G, with 3G as a fallback option.”
Moore noted that he recently saw a sign at a Cricket store in Kansas City warning customers that it will no longer activate devices that aren't VoLTE compatible.