This upcoming change means you may need to get a new cell phone

KELOLAND.com Original

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s time for a cell phone upgrade. Or at least it could be, according to the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The reason for this is the phasing out of 3G networks by all major mobile carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. This will be happening in 2022, and PUC Chairman Chris Nelson wants South Dakotans to be ready.

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) along with the three major cell carriers have announced that over the course of 2022 they will be phasing out 3G cellular service across the country,” said Nelson. “Part of the reason for that is that as they put new and faster radios on the cell towers across the country — they’re needing to phase out some of the older technology, which is the 3G.”

Nelson explained that if you have an older cell phone that only operates on 3G, you should contact your mobile carrier and upgrade to a newer phone.

“My elderly mother has a flip phone; one that she’s had for many years. She dearly loves her flip phone, but when we researched it, we found that it is indeed a 3G flip phone. We worked with her carrier to a brand new flip phone, but one that is going to be 4G compliant,” Nelson said.

There is no firm cut-off date for what age of phones are too old to continue to function once 3G is phased out, but Nelson says that in many cases it will be flip-phones and even some of the older smart phones which were among the first to operate on 4G that will be affected.

Nelson says that it’s important to reach out to you provider, and that some are even offering upgrades for free to newer phones in order to help people transition.

“If you think you might have a 3G phone, go ahead and contact your carrier and find out,” he said.

If your phone operates on 4G, Nelson says it will depend on the age of the technology to determine if it will still work.

“There are various types of 4G technology,” he said. “The latest 4G technology will continue to work for a long time to come. It was some of the very, very earliest 4G technology that is probably going to be phased out along with 3G.”

The reason behind the need to phase out 3G is due to demand, according to Nelson.

“[Smartphone users] continue to use more and more data on those smartphones every year, and that means that the cell network has a lot more traffic across it this year than it did last year, and it’ll have a whole lot more next year than it did this year,” Nelson said.

To keep up with the increase in demand, Nelson says these carriers are upgrading from 3G to newer versions of 4G and 5G. “That’s causing some of this transition,” he said. “The companies are already doing this — putting the new radios up in order to handle the capacity that’s needed for the amount of data traffic that we all generate.”

If you’re looking for resources to help you understand the transition up to a newer 4G or 5G compatible device, Nelson recommends checking out the FCC website.

While cell phones are the main devices that will be affected by the transition away from 3G, Nelson says any device that communicates with the cell network could be affected. Among these he lists alarm systems and medical devices, and he recommends checking to make sure they are 4G compliant.

While this move may be concerning for some who have grown comfortable with their old flip phone and who may be reticent to upgrade to a smartphone, Nelson again recommends reaching out to your provider.

“We just want to make sure that South Dakotans are aware of this and are prepared for it,” he said. “Get those change overs to newer phones done sooner rather than later so that we don’t have an issues of folks being out of cell service when those transitions occur next year.”

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