In 2022, telecom carriers will stop providing 3G services in order to use the bandwidth and resources to expand the deployment of their 4G LTE and 5G services. Dubbed 3G sunsetting, the service shutoff will impact a wide variety of devices used in a wide range of applications, including health and medical monitoring, home security, fleet management and tracking, vehicle SOS services, and handheld devices used for scanning and asset management at construction sites or in warehouses and factories. There are also a bevy of ruggedized industry-specific 3G tablets in daily use, and many devices that need 3G connectivity as a backup when a wired internet connection goes down.
The only thing these applications have in common is that the devices leverage 3G services to intermittently transmit a relatively small amount of data. Many of the applications represent some of the earliest implementations of IoT. The scope of the issue cannot be understated. Last year, 12% of all mobile connections in North America were still using 3G.
A Long History of Use
The sunsetting of a service is not unusual. As the FFC noted: “some mobile carriers shut down their 2G networks when they upgraded their networks to support 4G services.”
What makes 3G sunsetting so potentially disruptive is that 3G has been used for nearly 20 years, and for a generation of users and applications, it has been the service of choice.