Verizon certainly thinks so. According to Digi International, Verizon – the largest wireless telecommunications provider in the U.S. – will completely shut down 3G by December 2019. AT&T plans to discontinue new 3G activations after December and shut down 3G by the end of 2021, but their timeline could speed up once Sprint, T-Mobile and other providers publicly announce their plans.
Why Does This Matter?
Millions of devices, such as 2G and 3G cellphones, cell routers and cell modules, will need to be replaced before the official shutdown because the network they connect to will no longer exist in North America. For cellphone users, this is likely not a huge burden because the average cellphone lifespan is 2.5 years.
However, in today’s IoT-connected world, there are routers and modules that are incorporated into finished products, and these devices are not replaced as rapidly. This issue is concerning for B2B and M2M (machine-to-machine) connectivity. For instance, routers in small branch locations may have a backup wireless 3G card to allow connectivity if the hard-wired internet connection goes offline. Some offices might have 3G mobile cards stashed away for natural disasters and business continuity, and these will need to be updated as well.
4G or 5G?
When considering your next update, should you go with 4G or 5G? The basic difference between 4G and 5G signals is that the 4G signal operates on frequencies below 6GHz, while 5G uses extremely high frequencies of 30-300GHz.
This means that 4G devices are all packed into a very limited frequency range. In high-volume areas like New York, Chicago and Houston, trying to use a 4G phone can be frustrating due to the number of devices competing for the signal.
5G is 20 times faster than 4G, but energy and physics do not allow us to have something for nothing. Because of the high frequencies that the 5G band operates in, it makes the signal near impossible to penetrate walls, humidity and rain. And they don’t travel as far. However, 5G allows for smaller antennas that can support over 1,000 more devices per meter than 4G because it has more traffic lanes.
The Final Word
3G is coming to an end, and you can expect 5G to start appearing in 2019. Cellphone users will naturally upgrade, but it’s time to start thinking about all the other devices in your IoT world that will be affected.