On February 18, 2019, AT&T announced the end of 3G wireless services. In less than three years’ time, the second-largest carrier in the United States will retire all of its 3G bands as early as 2022 according to a regulatory filing. Verizon will be ending support for 3G devices by the end of 2019.
The wind down started with the advent of the 4G LTE networks and massive investments from all major US carriers, including Sprint and T-Mobile. Data download speeds surpassed 3G speeds by nearly 10x as the networks continued to roll out new and improved networks.
As data becomes more of a necessity for personal and business users, the reliability of speeds and unlimited data plans coming back into the fold, have certainly changed the face of how wireless carriers continue to provide network support. With 5G speeds zooming through cities across the country (Verizon is planning 30 cities by the end of 2019), 3G’s support is continuing to wane in the face of a new and improved wireless delivery system for data.
However, some carriers are still holding onto their 3G bands. Sprint and T-Mobile have announced no plans to end 3G service any time soon. It can be presumed that they are waiting on final confirmation from regulators on the more than $26 billion merger of the two carriers waiting in the wings.
Sprint is also probably learning from its previous acquisition of Nextel where its iDEN network was shut down as push-to-talk (PTT) devices became irrelevant.The 3G revolution kicked off with the launch of the iPhone 3G, a revolutionary smartphone at the time. Now with only 11% of total wireless subscribers presently using 3G bands, carriers are looking to shed the archaic network bands in favor of aggressively upgrading them to 5G bands.
Telecom executives should look closely at shifting their attention to higher engineering standards in the 5G era, which is expected to make streaming and wearables much more reliable for the end user.