Cellular networks ending 3G service | News, Sports, Jobs

Local residents may need to upgrade their cellphones, as well as their medical alert, safety and security systems, as 3G cellular networks are phased out to make way for improved 4G and 5G services.

The Federal Communication Commission announced the plan to phase out 3G cellular service earlier this year to prepare for more advanced network services. The loss of 3G networks may impact those with older cell phones and those who use out-of-service cell phones only for 911 emergency calls.

“If your cell phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down their 3G network and you lose service, including the ability to call 911,” Lt. Adam Reed, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Office of Communications, said in a press release. “In an emergency, every minute counts, whether you need police, firefighters or medical assistance.”

Pennsylvania emergency management officials said in a news release that most service users will be notified directly by their carriers if the outage affects them. However, those with an old, non-active cell phone used only to call 911 may not receive the notification.

Locally, Blair County Emergency Management Director Mark Taylor said he was not aware of anyone contacting his office to be concerned about the change.

“I think for the most part people have devices comparable to what is needed for 5G,” he said.

Most users of paid services should have already received a communication by text, email, phone call or letter indicating whether their device is affected or not.

Service providers have already begun the process of shutting down 3G networks, including AT&T, which will end its 3G service by Tuesday. An AT&T spokesperson said less than 1% of AT&T’s consumer devices of the company’s 196 million connected devices, including phones, tablets and watches, will lose cellular service.

T-Mobile, which merged with Sprint in 2020, will terminate Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by the end of March and Sprint’s 4G LTE network by the end of June.

Verizon officials said the provider’s 3G services will end by the end of 2022. Verizon originally announced a 3G network shutdown in 2019 in 2016, but it delayed the shutdown twice to accommodate customers. , according to its website.

Carriers will begin removing parts of the networks before the shutdown date.

For seniors in the area, Blair Senior Services is working to bring in speakers to help with the technology transition. Mike Smith, director of administrative services, said the centers are currently closed due to the pandemic, but aim to plan programming after the centers reopen on February 28.

Tom Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services, a nonprofit associated with AARP, expressed concern about the impact of the shutdown in a recent Associated Press article.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the impact and the number of people affected,” he said.

AARP asked the FCC to delay AT&T’s shutdown until December.

The change affects not only cellphone users, but also certain medical devices like LifeAlert, tablets, smartwatches, in-vehicle emergency services like OnStar and home security products.

The home alarm industry has asked the FCC to delay AT&T’s network shutdown until December. FCC monitors 3G phase-out and works to “put safeguards in place” for older phones and other devices, the Associated Press reported.

An alarm industry lobby group estimates that 1.5 million customers still need to upgrade their fire or burglar alarms, while around half a million have 3G-powered medical alert devices; he said most rely on AT&T service.

A fire alarm without a network will still trigger an alarm if there is smoke, but it will not be able to contact the fire department. Other affected home security alarms would not be able to contact emergency services if the alarm is triggered.

The FCC website warns consumers who use providers other than the three major networks to be aware of the upcoming changes.

Operators such as Cricket, Boost and Straight Talk use AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile networks. The FCC advises consumers to contact their cell phone provider about their 3G shutdown plans to see if their personal phone may be affected. Some carriers offer free or discounted device upgrades, while others offer software updates to help with the transition. Several vendors said they offer free or low-cost upgrades to users.

If a customer doesn’t want a smartphone, most carriers still offer a basic user-friendly cell phone.

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