February 3, 2023

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Farewell to 3G – The Verand

It really is the curtain-raiser for 3G, one of the key technologies that helped usher in the smartphone age. Throughout December, Verizon disconnected its customers who were still using the technology, blocking their phones from using data, making calls, and sending texts. It was the last major US carrier to do so — AT&T shut down its 3G service in February, and T-Mobile began phasing out its legacy networks the following month.

Verizon customers with 3G devices have been given ample warning. It used to say the network would go offline in 2019, but with delay after delay, the date has slowly been pushed back to December 31, 2022. In the meantime, people have been sent new, LTE-enabled phones, as well as letters explaining exactly what’s about to happen. According to Fierce Wireless, Verizon has notified customers with 3G devices that their lines will be locked starting the day before the December billing cycle begins.

After that, up 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 be around for a few more years in other countries, Verizon’s deadline is pretty much the end of the road here in the US. Technology has not entered this good night gently; Carriers have delayed their shutdowns several times, there have been disputes between Dish and T-Mobile, and you can’t just shut down a network that’s been in place for years without something crashing.

One reason network operators decommission their networks is to help build their new ones. As we saw earlier this month, T-Mobile’s latest and greatest 5G technology uses frequencies that were once part of the 3G network.

I certainly won’t miss 3G. But I’m glad he existed.

It’s easy to strip the end of 3G. 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 useful – if you’ve recently had the misfortune of your phone dropping all the way to 3G due to lack of coverage, you’ll know that the network definitely wasn’t offering anywhere near the experience that We expect.

But despite its obsolescence, I think we should say goodbye to it and remember what it used to be, not what it has become. The first 3G phones hit the market in the early 2000s, but in the US, it wasn’t until the rise of the smartphone that the network really came into its own.

When people started getting phones like the iPhone 3G or HTC Dream (aka T-Mobile G1), the benefits of a fast (for the time) internet connection became apparent. Browsing the web on the go was no longer a niche activity for people with certain business phones, but something more and more people were doing every day, while accessing pictures and music on the go changed the way we interact with media.

That’s not to say we should keep it anyway – I’d be way too late even if I thought it was the best move. All I ask is that you give a thought to the technology that has helped build the mobile-first world we live in. even if this is the last time you think about it.