What is 3G Sunset and Are You Prepared?
woman using mobile phone

Today, with the fourth generation (4G) of wireless mobile technology widely available and with wireless carrier companies deploying the fifth generation (5G), worldwide 3G networks are in the process of being shut down. This is known as the 3G network sunset or retirement.

The “G” stands for generation. The newer the network, the more capacity for more devices to connect to that network. Introduced in 1998, 3G is now considered a slower network compared to the current standard 4G.

As more people access mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) expands, as many as 83 billion devices are expected to leverage cellular network support by 2024. That’s where the higher generations (4G/5G) come in, offering peak capacity and efficient data transfer.

What Does 3G Sunset Mean to You?

Consumers may encounter a number of issues relating to 3G sunset, but one in particular might arise if you have an alarm system that is connected to a monitoring service solely via a 3G enabled technology. In that case, alerts will not be transmitted to your monitoring services after the 3G sunset happens. This can be a huge risk exposure as it relates to connected alarm/security, health and medical devices. For example, if you are away from your home, and a fire alarm is triggered, your monitoring service will not be alerted, potentially leaving your home at greater risk for fire damage. Similarly, if an intruder breaks into your home, and you are on a 3G enabled network, the alarm system will not provide signals to alert your service provider and that increases your risk of loss from theft and burglary.

Another problem that may arise from the 3G sunset involves cars equipped with in-vehicle communications systems which are connected to cellular modems to provide automatic access to call centers in the event of an accident.  Some of those cars’ modems connect only to 3G networks, so upon 3G sunset that connectivity will be lost. The most crucial of these services is automatic crash notification, which calls emergency services immediately after a collision bad enough to cause airbags to deploy. That’s especially valuable when the driver is knocked unconscious or incapacitated and there’s no one else on hand to help. Consumer Reports compiled a list of the vehicles that will be affected; according to the magazine, “some vehicles just need a software or hardware upgrade, but others will lose their connections permanently.”

How Do I Find Out if My Device is Going to be Affected by the 3G Sunset?

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has a website to help people prepare. It includes information on rebate programs and other low-cost options for new technology. In addition, every wireless device has a model number and an associated FCC ID. This ID can be verified at the website FCC.IO to determine if your device will be obsolete or not. You can contact your service provider for the FCC ID.

What Can You Do to Limit Disruption?

Many service providers have sent email communications to their clients; please check your email records, including spam or additional folders to see if you have received anything from them. If you have not heard from them or want to get the ball rolling on updating your system, contact your cellular phone carrier, security provider, or car and device manufacturer directly and ask the following questions:

  • When are cellular carrier changes expected to roll out in my area?
  • What is your company’s timeline and plans for customer updates?
  • Will the 3G sunset impact my security system?
  • Can I update my device or system in advance, or do I need to wait for a tiered rollout?
  • Will I be charged a service fee to upgrade my device or system? If so, how much?
  • Do I need to purchase new equipment, or will it be provided free of charge?
  • How can I schedule a service call to update my security system, if needed?
  • Do you have a device that will allow for conversions to 5G when they are released?
  • Are the replacements made free of charge?
  • Where do I recycle my obsolete devices?
  • How do I erase my private data from old devices?
  • Will my SIM card work on the new device?
  • Can I purchase a refurbished phone or device? If so, will it work on the new network?

Also, if you know an elderly person who is using a cellular-enabled medical device, reach out to them to see if they need help securing a new compatible device.

3G Sunset Schedule

Below is the schedule for 3G sunset by the major cellular carriers:

  • AT&T – Completed their transition early this year
  • Verizon – Plans to complete their transition by December 31, 2022
  • T-Mobile – Plans to complete their transition by July 1, 2022

For more information regarding the 3G sunset, visit the Federal Communications Commission by clicking here. The site provides timely updates and additional information.   

Paula Sibal is a Service Solutions Specialist with Chubb Personal Risk Services.


The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.