Ode to Wireless 3G: Did 42 Million People Just Get Screwed?

Will another 100 million get screwed over the closing of 4G LTE?

My cell phone just turned into a paperweight. I got the announcement above multiple times from TracFone wireless on the day they killed my service. When I call it is the sound of one hand clapping. It does say “emergency calls only”, and that my service is good through 2/19/ 2024, but the call doesn’t go through.

And now I can smash my cell phone against a wall and not feel guilty. I know many others who have thought of doing this action, but paused.

Yesterday, I came to learn that my service was using the “3G” networks. Who knew? I thought it had already been upgraded to “4G” — — a decade ago… or maybe “5G”, which is more marketing bullsheet than anything else.

Verizon bought TracFone last year — and it is now clear that this is a consequence of that acquisition; had TracFone remained independent, the networks would have stayed open to accommodate a large provider, like TracFone, “serving approximately 21 million subscribers”.

And it looks like Verizon violated the sale agreement as there was not supposed to be any major changes to my service — it was supposed to work, with the same plan and the same phone.

“Current TracFone customers will not have to make any immediate changes or take any action when the deal is finalized. Current customers will be able to remain on their current plans and will not have to change plans or devices when the transaction closes.”

Who the hell knows what any of this means or what “G” their phone is using? If you’re confused about 3G, 4G, 5G, and even 6G think of it as — “G” equals gibberish. In the end, if the service works, or doesn’t, the “G” stands for “garbage talk”.

First, how many are being ‘shut off’ for 3G?

What astonishes me is that there is no detailed statistical information about exactly how many people are going to get screwed by shutting off these networks. And I didn’t know that there is a plan to not only shut off 3G but also 4GLTE as well.

Forty-two Million 3G Devices?

According to the CTIA, the wireless association, there were 469 million wireless connections with 190 million of them as data-only devices.

“Data-only devices rose to 190.4 million in 2020, now representing 41.3 percent of all estimated devices. Data-only devices have grown 272 percent since 2013. Overall wireless connections grew to 468.9 million.”

Where’s the break-out of how many are 3G, 4G, and 5G? Couldn’t find it. In fact, the total number 3G connections is just missing in this conversation. By digging I did find a sentence that mentioned that about 9% of the connections are still 3G.

The CTIA writes

“Today, fewer than 9% of U.S. wireless connections are 2G or 3G subscriptions, but that amount may vary by national, regional and prepaid providers.”

Wait, basic math kicks in. If there are 469 million connections and 9% are 3G, this means that there are still 42 million 3G connections at the end of 2021.

It is obvious that the CTIA Wireless association is attempting to obfuscate how many are going to be impacted. If they were serious about the line accounting, they would have used decimal points and actual numbers, as they did with all of the other reporting — but “fewer than” — is not a solid number.

Or they could have done the math and in big letters wrote:

42.21 Million Customers have 2G or 3G Service.“

But here’s something you probably didn’t know: According to the CTIA:

“Many 2G and 3G devices are not phones

“Consumers should think not just about their phones but other devices that connect to a wireless network. If you are a consumer or enterprise customer with 2G and/or 3G Internet of Things (IoT) devices, you will also need to upgrade them. Such devices could range from alarm systems to connected car modules, or to other sensors.”

Review Geek writes about cars that will be affected.

“What cars will be affected by 3G shutdown?

This will affect everyone from Acura, Audi, Honda, Tesla, Toyota, Subaru, Volkswagen, Nissan, Volvo, etc. Cars with Verizon have a little longer to go, as the company announced it would slowly end support for 3G, and the network will finally shut down by December 31st, 2022.”

WWMT news in Michigan states that it isn’t just the Big Cell Providers but all of those that rent their networks from the Big Cell Providers that will be impacted, like Cricket or Boost.

“Verizon said it will completely shut down its 3G network by Dec. 31, 2022. The Federal Communications Commission said other carriers, like Cricket, Boost, Straight Talk and some Lifeline mobile service providers use the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.”

TracFone is one of those companies that rents service from the Big Cell Providers.

Phone Arena gives a rundown of different shut off dates for the different carriers.

“T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint 2G/3G/4G LTE network shutdown dates: the sunset!

Wait. — What you should notice is — the companies are also planning to shut down 4G LTE, though each carrier appears to be treating this differently. .

Phone Arena’s scorecard:

“T-Mobile has listed the dates for shutting down Sprint’s 3G and 4G LTE networks and migrating people to modern broadband speed pastures. “These (dates) are January 1, 2022, for Sprint’s 3G network sunset, and June 30, 2022, for the 4G LTE connections, respectively.”

“Verizon’s 2G network is already sunset but don’t worry about its 4G LTE network as this will be around together with Verizon’s 5G coverage for years to come, so no need to switch to 5G phones just yet, unless you want some of the perks that come with those, like all the bells and whistles of the Galaxy S22 series of handsets.”:

“AT&T announced February 22, 2022, as its 3G network shutdown date, and warns that the carrier would ‘no longer activate phones that don’t support HD Voice since they won’t be compatible to work on our network when 3G shuts down.’ Same as with Verizon’s 3G network shutdown, basically”.

And what’s even more confusing, besides the network closures is that some phones will still work if upgraded while others, like mine — can now be smashed against the wall as it will no longer be able to make or receive calls.

“As for the all-important question about that AT&T 3G network shutdown free phone replacement that Ma Bell has been offering to subscribers to soothe their sunset pain, it’s not really worth it. Also, you may want to have a look at AT&T’s list of phones that will and won’t work after the 3G network shutdown, as not all Galaxy S20 models are created equal, apparently. The Galaxy S22 series of phones, however, would do just fine.”

The 5G Con and a Nasty Subplot.

At first, I saw this as an update to the technology — but screwing this many people and businesses with a FCC-approved plan to shut off 4G LTE, is much more devious than I thought.

This is a plan that has been concocted with a captured FCC by AT&T et al. to force customers onto more expensive plans and require more expensive phones and new technology purchases for a “5G” service which is more vaporware than a realized service.

And the “G” issue is to use it as a ‘shiny bauble’, a piece of broadband marketing trickery to make you believe that this 5G and beyond is the future — so let’s just get rid of regulations and concerns about actual customer’s rights.

In this case, seniors, who are the predominant users of TracFone and many of these other similar plans, will wake up to find that their services were based on something called ‘3G’ — that worked just fine for the service they are paying for.

It doesn’t matter what “G” it is if it can’t deliver what it claimed it could.

According to Fierce Wireless, the FCC did an investigation into the deployment of 4G LTE delivered by companies that were getting government subsidies. —

“The year-long investigation included nearly 25,000 speed tests in 12 states. According to the report, FCC staff achieved a minimum download speed of 5 Mbps where carriers claimed to have coverage in 45% of tests for U.S. Cellular, 63.2% of for T-Mobile and 64.3% for Verizon. The investigation couldn’t find any 4G LTE signal for 21.3% of drive tests on T-Mobile’s network, 16.2% on Verizon’s network, and 38% on U.S. Cellular’s network, “despite each provider reporting coverage in the relevant area.”

“Inaccuracies in operators’ coverage maps is not necessarily a surprising issue, but reliable data was key to the design of MF-II since federal support for smaller carriers’ 4G LTE deployments was predicated on the FCC’s ability to use the maps to determine which areas of the country were unserved and therefore eligible.”

I bring this up because the FCC’s-Industry-induced plan is to force-march America onto a made-up nebulous technology that, to date, is mostly smoke and mirrors.

In fact, much of the 5G is now more like 4.5G with a wig and lipstick as 5G has never worked as advertised.

As one veteran wireless expert said —

“5 comes after 4, so, of course there had to be a 5G after 4G.”

I could go on but what’s the point?

Shutting off working services with claims that this new tech “WILL”, MIGHT”, “COULD” work, is ridiculous on the surface.

6G Will Save Us

Don’t worry about the next iteration of wireless service — 6 follows 5. On February 22nd, 2022, the FCC started the 6G working group, as part of an overall Technology Advisory Council, and its members include the NCTA, the cable trade association, T-Mobile, AT&T, Charter Spectrum and Verizon, among others, as well as some academics, and consultants.

What could go wrong?


Many of you reading this sleep with your cell phone, and you even take it with you in the shower. I used my TracFone to have available when I went to meetings outside and for emergencies; with the pandemic, those have been far and few. At home, I’d rather use a large screen to watch video and a wired connection for better sounding calls.

Of course, as an analyst I can quote you statistical data on the generational use of cell phones, (‘younger’ use it more, and I’d be considered a ‘senior’), or the behavioral issues where the 80–20% rule kicks in where 20% of users create 80% of the usage, or that it’s a ‘bling’ thing — who has the most expensive, newest, shiny bauble toy.

But in the end, this change is not about giving better services; it’s about how much more can they charge and sell more equipment, and use it as an excuse to not properly upgrade the entire US. In fact, the push to 5G is an industry driven bait-and-switch to not build out fiber optic networks to everyone but take the money that should have been used for a wired high-speed Digital Future and illegally transfer it to the companies’ wireless division — another tale for another time.

In the end, I blame the captured FCC, led by former attorney for Verizon, the CTIA, and friend of a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council — now FCC commissioner Brendan Carr, (with the help of AT&T and Verizon), for his lead role to push 5G wireless instead of investigating the massive accounting fraud scandal that he may have helped to put in place; it is one reason why America’s wireless prices are 5–20 times more expensive that overseas, and it is why there is a Digital Divide.

I’m all for tech upgrades, and I didn’t even know 3G was still in use. But considering that this is not to benefit the public but AT&T et al….

If I decide to smash the phone I’ll post the video. As the shut-offs continue, we can expect to hear more about this from the public.



New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.

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Bruce Kushnick

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.