back to article 3G ain’t totally dead yet: Verizon pushes back cut-off plans to some unspecified future date

Verizon has delayed plans to shutdown its 3G network for a third time. The mobile operator originally intended to scrap the old tech two years ago, deciding back in 2016, that December 31, 2019 would be the cut-off date. It even stopped adding any new 3G phones in mid-2018. But come July of 2019, it extended the deadline to …

  1. Slx

    I guess Verizon's in more of a rush than most to kill 3G as theirs is based on a quite proprietary Qualcomm CDMA-2000 technology, which has come to a dead end with their 4G and 5G networks effectively being 3GPP (GSM family) technologies overlaid on top of it. So, for those CDMAOne/2000 operators the need to move on is more urgent.

    3GPP's legacy standards i.e. 2G GSM and 3G UMTS can be typically supported on more flexible modern RAN infrastructure minimising or almost entirely eliminating waste of bandwidth and without needing to use separate overlays of modern and legacy infrastructure.

    There'll be plenty of 2G hanging on in Europe, particularly for slow M2M communications for things like electricity and gas meters that were kitted out with 2G chipsets.

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      I guess Verizon's in more of a rush than most to kill 3G as theirs is based on a quite proprietary Qualcomm CDMA-2000 technology [...] 2G GSM and 3G UMTS can be typically supported on more flexible modern RAN infrastructure

      That doesn't seem to be the case. AT&T dropped their 2G network in 2017, and announced 3G will be shuttered at the end of this year (2021), necessitating VoLTE. T-Mobile has allowed its 2G network to linger on, while 3G will be killed off this month.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Reality cheque

    "Pushing customers onto new, more expensive networks only for them to find the service is sometimes worse is a guaranteed way to lose support."

    They can't "lose support". They're able to cut you off cold by closing down now essential services so your older but still functional kit stops working and needs to be replaced.

    It's highly questionable whether many folks really need 5G (or 1Gb broadband), but once it's the only option, everyone will just have to fork out the extra dosh or go without.

    1. yoganmahew

      Re: Reality cheque

      @Mike

      Yep. A sensible progression would be to retain 3G always as the step down value, and kill off intermediate Gs, so as 5G expands, 4G is deprecated, with 4G phones falling back to 3G.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Reality cheque

        5G is 4G, just rebranded and with more spectrum. Removing earlier standards would, in theory, make handsets simpler. But considering the support has been in the silicon for years, there's little real advantage in this. It's more likely that 3G equipment will simply not be replaced when it breaks because networks are no longer obliged to provide it. But they also have little incentive driving round and decommissioning stuff.

  3. Snake Silver badge

    How generous

    Actually, I'm sure the *real* truth, this being Verizon and all, is this: Verizon doesn't / didn't want / actually spend the money to upgrade their complete nationwide system. There are coverage gaps in the 4G, and therefore most certainly the 5G, network. Telling the world you're killing off 3G essentially cuts off the customers in those areas.

    They're biding time. Trust me. Verizon never does things they promise at the schedule they promised it at, especially when it comes to spending some of their money to do it.

    1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: How generous

      All the American mobile phone companies have yet to get 1G right, and yet they are moving on to 5G. What is the point of a smartphone if I cannot even do the phone part and many populated areas. I'm not talking about in the middle of a desert or around mountains that can block radio waves. Every cellular phone company here has dead zones where many people live.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: How generous

        Fragmentation of standards is one of the main reasons why < 4G coverage in the US is so poor. There were at least three completely incompatible implementations until the switch the UMTS and then 4G.

        While there is something to be said for a universal, voice-only (2G) network, the move to pure packet networks can be justified by the improvements in hardware allowing for much more sophisticated base stations and handsets. Oh, and as universal == "socialist" in America, it'll never happen whoever is head of the FCC…

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: How generous

          Fragmentation of standards is one of the main reasons why < 4G coverage in the US is so poor. There were at least three completely incompatible implementations until the switch the UMTS and then 4G.

          There are some round here, with blind faith in 'markets', who will actually applaud this state of affairs.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: How generous

            There is, of course, merit in competition, even among technological standards. But the "market" is usually not the best place for this, because it generally doesn't look for the best technical, but the cheapest solution.

            The GSMA was setup because European networks and providers understood that the IDEN/CDMA/PCM approach could not work in Europe. There are also risks in such clubs that they will ignore better technology simply because it's from non-members. But there's no doubt that the drive towards compatibility through technical standards helped the rest of the world "get online".

      2. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: How generous

        1G no longer works anywhere; even in Africa you get 2G.

  4. Sparkus Bronze badge

    There are a huge number of embedded 3G modems

    Not just automotive either. Everything from stand-alone Kronos timeclocks to remote process control systems (oil, ag, etc) to surveillance and security 'bots to medical monitoring equipment.

    The remaining 3G at the handset consumer level is throw-away. Embedded and difficult to replace is going to drive this.

  5. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not really urgent

    Not really that urgent -- CDMA 1x (for voice, text, slow speed data -- 2G) uses a 1.25mhz channel, and EVDO (3G -- but does not support voice, thus still having 2G *and* 3G) uses a 1.25mhz channel, so you're only losing 2.5mhz of spectrum keeping it up and running. Equipment availability would be the main thing... but I'm not sure if they're actually still running 2G/3G equipment, or just using their fancy software defined radios (used for 4G & 5G) to also run 2G and 3G... they don't really talk about it, but these software defined radios do support CDMA, EVDO, GSM, UMTS/HSPA, etc, since it's all software.

    Verizon had already been claiming they were shutting down 2G/3G effective January 1, 2021 FOR REGULAR USERS, but keep it up until December 31 2022 for some long-term non-4G alarm system contracts. So I'm not that surprised, it'd be silly to have to keep it running anyway but artificially block users from it.

    The other good reason to delay, it appears (despite being given notice 3 years ago, 2 years ago, a year ago, 9 months ago, 6 months ago, and 3 months ago that their phones would become a paper weight), people were rushing to try to buy replacement phones within the last 2 weeks, so some had nothing to buy. My dad has a VoLTE-capable flip phone (which I think is silly but whatever), it was like $120 or so a year or two ago.... last week they were going for $250 USED!!!

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not really

    "Actually, I'm sure the *real* truth, this being Verizon and all, is this: Verizon doesn't / didn't want / actually spend the money to upgrade their complete nationwide system. There are coverage gaps in the 4G, and therefore most certainly the 5G, network. Telling the world you're killing off 3G essentially cuts off the customers in those areas."

    Nope, they finished their 4G rollout (coverage-wise) over 5 years ago, in present day their LTE coverage actually exceeds the coverage of their 3G network. The only spots you'd see 3G/1x now -- fringe coverage, where it might show 1x but it's not strong enough to use (I've seen this), off hiking in some hills... you move to a hair better signal and it flips back to 4G LTE. And if someone still has a 3G network extender (this connects to house wifi or ethernet and broadcasts a 3G signal).. so households with this would need a 4G extender but those have been out for years and are under $200 (perhaps Verizon "should" at least give a discount on the extender but they probably won't.)

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