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The 2G and 3G networks are ending soon. What now?

If your Linxup GPS tracker operates on the 2G or 3G network, or you have any other technology that does, you’ve probably heard by now that you’ll need to make some changes. It may sound like a nice talking point to get you to upgrade your technology, but these networks are actually going away and devices operating on them will need to be updated eventually. We’re going to break down everything you need to know.

What is 2G and 3G?

When you hear cellular carriers talk about 2G and 3G, they are referring to second and third generations of cellular technology passing signals via phone towers over long distances. 3G was introduced in 2001 and made the advent of smartphones and internet connectivity on handheld devices possible. While not as fast as 4G and LTE, 3G has been a stable network for almost 20 years and covers 87% of the global population.

3g cellular towers
Why where you live matters

When cellular providers shut down networks, it’s not like an electrical blackout. They don’t flip a switch and shut everything down at the same time. Providers have already begun to evaluate the locations of cell towers and the number of devices regularly relying on each tower, and they have also begun shutting down towers in low-use areas.

Why are they going away?

The short answer is to make way for 4G and 5G, which allow carriers to offer more features and more bandwidth to more people, usually at lower cost. Smartphones, IoT (internet of things), and GPS consume an extraordinary amount of data, and network providers want to boost capacity for newer technologies. 

FLASHBACK: Linxup transitions from 2G
See how we explained the 2G shutdown back in 2016. 

Is this already happening?

Several major carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, began shutting down their 2G networks in 2017. 3G shutdowns are beginning at the end of 2020 and through 2022, depending on the carrier. The CDMA network is also being shut down by Verizon and Sprint.

Read More:

What is the CDMA network? And why should I care?

If you’re a Sprint or Verizon customer, you may also have started hearing rumblings about the CDMA network. What’s that?  We’ll break it down for you here.

What devices are affected?

IoT devices are a major portion of the devices still using 2G and 3G technologies. Most smartphones are already using newer networks, but devices such as GPS trackers don’t need the same data speeds and many have remained on the slower 3G network. 

When is this happening?

Each major carrier manages its own network, and has its own timeline for shutting down. The earliest 3G shutdowns are expected to begin at the end of 2020, and all networks will be shut down by the end of 2022.

So… what’s the rush?

That’s the big question, right? Depending on your network, can’t you put off swapping devices for another year or two? It’s actually a bad idea for a few reasons. First, most carriers have stopped activating 3G devices ahead of the sunset to control the number of devices that will stop working once the shutdown occurs. That means fewer resources devoted to firmware updates for 3G devices. Second, as the first wave of shutdowns begin, all 3G users will notice a degradation of service in certain geographical areas. For GPS users, that could mean loss of data in some areas.

These networks are going away and devices operating on them will need to be upgraded eventually. Fortunately, some simple planning can ensure that your GPS, IoT, and other data needs have a seamless transition. Plan now for the best time to swap out 3G devices with upgraded technology. You may even find that newer devices have added functionality to benefit your business.

I'm Going to Wait.

What's the big deal?