Advocates fear older Nevadans unprepared for phase-out of 3G – The Nevada Independent – The Nevada Independent

As major wireless carriers plan to shut down their third-generation (3G) wireless networks, older adults in Nevada and millions across the country will lose services they rely on to make calls, protect their homes and keep them alive after an accident. 
“While the 3G sunsetting is overall a good thing, we are concerned about the potential negative impacts on Nevada residents, especially those in rural areas where 3G provides critical coverage,” said Maria Moore, Nevada state director of AARP, which is calling on carriers to postpone a transition set to happen this year. 
“To reduce the risks to those affected, many of whom are older adults, any disruption resulting from the transition to 5G can and should be prevented,” Moore said. 
The number of Nevadans who use 3G devices is unclear, but Barry Gold, the director of government relations for AARP Nevada, says approximately 20 percent of Americans still rely on 3G phones and other electronics including certain medical devices, tablets, smartwatches, vehicle SOS systems and home security systems. 
3G refers to the third generation of developments in wireless technology, especially mobile communication. The Federal Communications Commission says that 3G networks, which rely on older technology, are scheduled to be phased out to make room for more advanced network services such as 5G. 
The commission explained that as mobile carriers are upgrading their networks, they will shut down 3G to free up infrastructure to support new devices. The same has happened with 2G networks when upgrading to 4G, but the difference is that many everyday at-home devices use 3G, making the transition more complicated. 
“Some of those are I-have-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up devices with buttons that [elderly people] use to call for help,” Gold said in an interview with The Nevada Independent. “If 3G doesn’t work, that signal will not go through and that’s a serious issue.” 
Especially during the pandemic, Gold says more seniors are reluctant to have someone enter their house to upgrade their devices. He says the issue has been prolonged with repeated delays of the switchover and a lack of outreach, and more needs to be done before 3G is shut down completely. 
AT&T finished shutting down its 3G network on Tuesday, Feb. 22. T-Mobile, merged with Sprint, will be shutting down its 3G network between March 31 and July 1, while Verizon announced it will retire 3G by Dec. 31. Discount providers such as Boost, Cricket, Straight Talk and others will follow suit as well because they piggyback off major carriers’ services. 
Phones that will stop working following the shutdown of 3G include Apple iPhone 6 or earlier versions and the Samsung Galaxy S4 or its earlier versions. Some older 4G phones that do not support HD Voice will also stop functioning. 
Gold says telecommunication companies should give people more time to figure out whether their devices will be affected and what they can do to replace them. He pointed out that a shutdown delay would allow more opportunities for AARP to reach different communities and to prepare them for the upcoming changes. 
“I haven’t seen any commercial from one of the carriers saying, ‘Hey, your life safety alert system [is] going to turn off, so give us a call,’” Gold said. “People should take it upon themselves to find out what’s available to them.” 
Meanwhile, an AT&T spokesperson said in an email that the company has proactively sent numerous communications via direct mail, bill messaging, emails and text messages to help customers transition to next-generation networks before 3G service ends. The spokesperson said less than 1 percent of AT&T’s mobile data traffic runs on 3G networks and the company has worked with its customers to provide free replacement phones. 
Gold said that while companies have tried to contact their customers about the upcoming changes, the ongoing pandemic has hampered their outreach efforts. He said people should look to other resources such as the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline program to receive help with getting discounts on phone and internet services. 
Phones may be replaceable through a carrier’s discounts and special promotions on replacement devices and trade-ins, but Gold said people should also check with their home security and vehicle SOS system providers to discuss the transition. 
AARP recommended that Nevadans with a medical alert device contact the manufacturer as devices made before 2019 commonly operate on 3G networks, and may need to be evaluated for upgrades. 
“Hopefully, the more people find out about it, the more people will call up and ask questions,” Gold said. “And it might get carriers to say they are getting an onslaught of calls and for them to realize a lot of people are going to be affected and they need more time.” 

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