Agnes Mends-Crentsil

The 3G era is over. It’s time to say goodbye.

Third-generation wireless technology—or 3G—enabled the widespread use of smartphones. Devices such as the Blackberry, Android, and Apple iPhones emerged during the 3G era, delighting customers with their service offerings and capabilities for multitasking—browsing the internet while taking voice calls, texting, and listening to music, for example. 

3G enabled an increase in data-transfer speed (four times faster than 2G), sparking development of new services such as video conferencing, video streaming, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). With the standardization of web connectivity, international roaming services became a reality.

Communications service providers (CSPs) took advantage of 3G capabilities to build stronger network infrastructures in support of connectivity, data access, and additional voice applications that allowed for several benefits, including:

  • The standardization of network protocols that made it possible to access data from anywhere
  • Increased data-transfer rate that provided services such as video conferencing and streaming
  • Improved capacity for better scalability

Alas, as 5G advances, the time has come to shut down the 3G network to make the spectrum that’s been dedicated to 3G available for ongoing development of the 5G network. Spectrum is limited, and newer technologies use it more efficiently.

However, before fully shutting down the 3G network, CSPs must consider the impact to existing subscribers, because the initial deployment of 4G was dependent on 3G capabilities as well. Some consumer devices such as tablets, smartwatches, home security systems, auto SOS systems, and life alert medical devices are still connected to the 3G network. Consumers must upgrade devices through their service providers to ensure continued services. Carriers across the globe, including top U.S. carriers, are on various schedules to shut down 3G.

As the 3G era ends, its legacy will live on in 4G LTE, 5G, and beyond. But it’s time to say farewell to 3G itself, with thanks for all the advancements it made to the user experience and the technology arena. 

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