There’s been a lot of talk about wireless carriers upgrading to 5G, but what hasn’t gotten much attention is getting rid of older 3G technology to make room for it and making space for it. other advanced network services.
On Tuesday, AT&T will be the first wireless carrier to shut down its 3G service. Others agreed to wait until later in the year because so many industries complained. They say they’ve been working to upgrade millions of devices that still rely on that old network, but between COVID-19, a chip shortage and supply chain delays, they won’t meet the date. limit. This means that everything from home security to fire alarm panels to car collision systems that communicate with monitoring centers around the clock on this 3G network could be affected.
“America is going to be disrupted. Lives will be at risk,” said John Brady, who runs the nation’s largest personal emergency response company, serving nearly a million customers. “I think the local person on the street doesn’t see this coming at all.”
Elizabeth Lynch certainly did not. Grandma calls the little button she wears around her neck a lifesaver, literally. She must have pressed it two years ago.
“I fell and my head was bleeding. My neighbors weren’t home, so thank goodness I had my medical alert button. And before you knew it, I heard the sirens and I knew help was on the way.” she told News4 I-Team.
Her family got the technology seven years ago when her husband died, so they would all feel safer with her living alone.
“It gives me a very safe feeling, an extremely safe feeling,” she said.
But that security is at risk for many as every device must be shut down by next week. Brady says his company has sent out countless notices and is spending more than $40 million.
“At the end of the day, we’re not going to be able to do that,” he said.
This is due to what he calls the Perfect Storm. Since the announcement of the deadline in 2019, a global shortage of chips has limited the production of 4G and 5G equipment. In addition, a supply chain disruption delayed the delivery of products. Then add the two-year challenges of COVID-19.
“We were on our way, we were organized and then all of a sudden, in March 2020, the pandemic hit,” Brady said.
This meant his elderly clients were locked down and technicians could not enter their homes.
“I probably would have said ‘no’ myself because I was very, very careful, very careful during COVID,” Lynch said.
Comcast/Xfinity, which is the parent company of NBC Universal which owns News 4, has sent new power adapters to its home security customers since the panel that communicates with the monitoring center uses 3G when not in use. not on WiFi.
But these holds are out of stock until at least May. Other home alarm companies have similar issues.
“You’ll be amazed how many people don’t even realize their devices are on a 3G platform. They think they automatically change when the technology changes,” Brady said.
According to him, one group might realize that their devices will not work: the criminals. Those electronic monitoring anklets that alert when people under house arrest try to leave, or when alcoholics shouldn’t drive, also use 3G.
“I mean, it’s kind of, it’s just scary,” Brady said.
Many of these industries have written to the Federal Communications Commission asking for a delay. T-Mobile agreed to extend until mid-summer. Verizon also set its deadline in December.
In a statement, an AT&T spokesperson told I-Team, “Each new generation of wireless network upgrades drives new investment, jobs and innovative services. A delay would jeopardize the evolution to 5G, as it seeks to force us to dedicate scarce spectral resources to support relatively few outdated 3G devices rather than reallocating spectrum to improve 5G capability. Over the past three years, careful planning and coordinated work with our customers has gone into the transition to 5G. Currently, less than 1% of our mobile data traffic goes over 3G networks. Forcing a delay would waste valuable spectrum resources unnecessarily and degrade network performance for millions of our customers. »
“Their response was, no, that’s it, we do, and we went to the FCC because it’s a life safety issue. People are going to be put at risk,” Brady said.
AT&T did not respond to questions from the I-Team about the potential impact on life safety. The FCC has not yet ruled and has not responded to I-Team’s request for an interview or information.
“The FCC should intervene and, based on life safety, should intervene and direct AT&T to extend sunset,” Brady said.
It’s not just about devices that save lives. Energy efficient solar panel systems also communicate using 3G technology. Some customers will not be able to see how much power they are producing.
And what about personal physical power? Older model fitness equipment uses 3G to connect the portable device to the Internet when it is not connected to WiFi.
“Ultimately you have to evolve with technology, and we support that decision. It’s all about timing,” Brady said.
Lynch says the timing worked out for her. She had to call Life Alert a few weeks ago after a power outage and they immediately scheduled her to upgrade.
“They gave me a new button, gave me a new one for my shower and one I can walk away with – all new,” she said.
But she worries about her friends who are still waiting and hopes AT&T will extend the deadline.
“Please don’t take it away, please,” she said. “We need it.”
Find more information about AT&T’s 3G shutdown here.
Check out this list of devices that will always work on the AT&T network.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and filmed and edited by Jeff Piper.