Everything comes to an end, even communication technology that we have taken for granted for a decade. Specifically, this article is a last call for 3G cellular data networks. That probably will not come as a surprise to many readers of Learning Solutions. Are you sure about everyone else?

This change is potentially important for many employees working from home who rely on their personal telephone accounts for connections. Some customers and subscribers to online eLearning services may also be affected. Devices that operate on 3G will not be able to connect to data networks after some point this year. That includes old Chromebooks, early iPads and classic Kindles, not to mention Tracfones. And there's more. Most attention has been paid to telephones, but there are many IoT devices and systems, from wearable medical devices to alarm systems, that operate on 3G.

Thanks to the efforts of the telecommunication industry, the transition from 3G will probably pass without a hitch for most people. But just in case, do you have a plan to assess and mitigate the effects on remote and field employees, temporary employees, customers, and subscribers? Elderly and low-income users of data services may be most affected and may have the most difficult time dealing with outages.

Some guidelines and deadlines

If you have not been collecting information about the transition, this summary may be helpful in your planning.

  • AT&T's 3G network will be gone by the end of February, 2022. This online resource identifies some steps to do immediately.
  • The T-Mobile and Sprint 3G network will end service on March 31, the T-Mobile 3G UMTS network will shut down July 1, and the former Sprint LTE network will be gone by midyear.
  • Verizon's 3G network will shut down by the end of 2022, and the company will not extend the deadline. Customers still accessing the Verizon 3G network may experience a degradation or complete loss of service. Verizon's service centers will only be able to offer extremely limited troubleshooting help on older devices.
  • This FAQ applies to Verizon and Tracfone.
  • Customers who get phone service from discount providers (including Boost, Cricket, and Straight Talk) are also affected by these changes. Readers of this article, users of discount providers, and others who may be affected should contact their providers for details.

What happens next?

The 4G and 5G networks will be around for years, probably decades, but users of 3G will need to upgrade their devices this year. IoT may be another story, depending on the number of devices involved and the data networks involved.