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What you need to know about the 3G shutdown

By Mint Fox

Originally published March 31, 2022


Last Updated August 18, 2023

mint fox sharing what you need to know about the 3g shutdown
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If you don’t keep up with the news, you might not have heard of the 3G shutdown. This year, all nationwide wireless providers are sunsetting their 3G networks. Any phones that run exclusively on these networks will no longer be able to make or receive calls, or use other data services, including emergency services. Basically, any phone exclusively running on a 3G network will turn into a door stop. 

Why is the 3G shutdown happening?

Nowadays, 3G networks are simply outdated and too slow. They also take up valuable space that 4G and 5G networks rely on, aren’t very cost-effective and can even drain your phone’s battery quicker, among other problems. So, in short, for the good of technology and you, 3G needs to go. 

You might also be wondering why 3G and 4G or 5G can’t live in harmony together. To run networks, wireless providers have to use frequencies. There are only a limited amount of frequencies they’re allowed to use, so now networks want to use those old 3G frequencies to make room for the next generation of phone connectivity. The reason they can’t just run 3G and 5G at the same time is because you can’t run two things on the same frequency. It would be like having two shows playing on the same television channel, or two radio stations using the same frequency. 

By the way, if you’re wondering, this isn’t the first time a network has been shut down. It also happened in the past when 4G became standard and 2G networks needed to be shut down. 

mint fox answering what is 3g

What is 3G?

Now that we’re talking about the older 3G network shutting down, you might be wondering… what the f*! is 3G? (We said fox.) 3G was the former standard for the way cellphones operated and connected to the internet. The 3G network technology has since been replaced by the newer 4G LTE and now 5G network technologies. 

Back in 2001 when it first launched, 3G was what first enabled us to have such immediate access to the internet via our smartphones and cleared the way for many of the apps we use today. The name 3G refers to it being the third generation of tech that allows our phones to connect to the internet. 

3G works by using phone towers to pass signals, strengthening our phone connections (and, at the time, making them speedier than ever). 

LTE vs 3G

While researching Gs 2 through 5, you may have heard the term LTE dropped (like we just did above). So, what is LTE? Check out our article using that link. TL;DR: it’s the way wireless data is transmitted, which means it’s the way our phones connect to the internet using cell towers. Once upon a time, 3G was the standard for how phones operated, but today it’s LTE. 

If you were to compare the two, LTE is a massive improvement over 3G–in fact, it’s up to 15 times faster than 3G. To download an average app using LTE, for example, might take you a few seconds. On the older 3G technology, the same app would take you about 30 seconds to download. This is just one example of the many differences in data speeds between the two.

When will 3G be shut down?

When 3G networks will shut down is up to the individual wireless companies themselves. Some will shut down their 3G networks in early 2022, some in the summer of 2022 and others will keep their 3G networks around until the end of the year. But no matter when it happens, it is a certainty that 3G networks will go away. So, if you’re on a carrier using 3G networks, it’s best to call and ask when 3G will be phased out and if it will affect you, if they haven’t already communicated that with you. If you’re a Mint customer, July 1 is when T-Mobile’s older 3G network will be shutdown.

When will 4G be phased out?

Hold your wireless horses. 4G, alongside 5G, is still the standard for many phones and won’t be phased out for a while. Like, a long while. Many predict 4G will be around for at least another decade. So mark your calendars for that blog post. Until then, keep enjoying your speedy phone. 

Will other devices be affected by the 3G shutdown?

Besides your 3G phone (including any iPhone 3G or other older devices), other devices will also be affected by the shutdown, including tablets, smart watches and certain medical devices. Even your car could potentially be affected by the 3G network shutdown. Basically, if it exclusively uses a 3G wireless network, it can be affected.

mint fox showing what devices will be affected by 3g shutdown

What might happen after the 3G network shutdown?

As we mentioned earlier, 3G going away clears space for 4G and 5G-exclusive networks. And just as the launch of 3G enabled us instantaneous access to the internet and brought with it a slew of life-changing apps (we mean food delivery apps, btw), 4G and 5G may also help bring more advanced technology to our smartphones, including technology like virtual reality, or help self-driving vehicles propagate in the automotive industry. And, eventually, these generations will lead us to 6G, just as 3G led to 4G and 5G. But again, that’s a blog post for another decade.

Will I be affected by the 3G shutdown?

If you’re on Mint and will be impacted, you’ll receive communication letting you know about the shutdown. If you’re with a different carrier, you’ll want to double-check with them if you’ll be affected (by the way, that might be another reason to switch carriers). Some wireless providers may have also sent out communication telling you to prepare if your phone isn’t 4G or 5G-compatible. One general rule, however, is that if your phone was purchased after 2015 it’s probably fine. It’s also fine if you use 4G LTE or 5G is listed at the top of your phone.

However, there are a few 4G devices that could potentially be affected if they don’t allow you to enable voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE). If you aren’t capable of enabling VoLTE on your phone, you’ll want to switch to a 4G-compatible that is VoLTE-capable. Find out how to check if VoLTE is on (or turn it on) by visiting our blog on voice over long-term evolution. You’ll find instructions here by device type, but generally, VoLTE settings may appear in your phone settings under the Cellular or Mobile Networks.

Who’s prepared for the 3G network shutdown? 

You are, now that you know all there is to know about the 3G shutdown. If you’ve got a 3G phone, now’s the time to find a new, 5G-compatible phone. Besides losing access to cellular services, when 3G networks are taken down, you won’t be able to do important things like call emergency services, so getting a new phone is basically an emergency. 
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with our selection of 5G-compatible phones. And if you’re not on Mint yet, check out our network coverage to see if it’s mint to be.

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