Wireless carriers are starting to shut down older 3G networks, affecting millions of cars. In late February 2022, AT&T became the first major wireless carrier to phase out its 3G network in what it’s calling a “3G sunset” as it continues to improve its 5G offerings, and it’s just the first of many.
Verizon wanted to do the same back in 2020, and before the end of the year, older connected vehicles will no longer have 3G service and car internet in the United States. For those wondering, 3G connectivity supports many features, including emergency crash notifications, remote start, and more.
Several features could stop working on 3G-connected cars as carriers transition to 4G and 5G services, and here’s what you can do about it.
The first carrier to shut down its 3G network is AT&T, which flipped off the switch on February 22nd, 2022. Other major network providers will do the same in the coming weeks and months.
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. Those with T-Mobile will see networks shut down by July 1st, 2022, with 2G networks closing later. T-Mobile also confirmed Sprint’s CDMA network will “sunset” by March 31st, 2022.
As you can see, between now and the end of the year, all major U.S. carriers will disable 3G.
Over the last decade or so, millions of cars and trucks came with 3G connectivity services before 4G and 5G were a thing. Unfortunately, many will lose some or even all of their connected features. Some of these include emergency crash response alerts or notifications, S.O.S. mode, real-time navigation, remote diagnostics, remote start, remote unlock, HVAC controls, OTA software updates, and more.
Automakers are well aware of this problem, and some are actively working on solutions or may offer upgrade paths soon. But, according to ConsumerReports, while manufacturers can upgrade lots of cars, millions of others will lose some of these services for good.
For now, the overall impact is unknown and will vary based on your vehicle, when it was made, and which 3G services or carrier it has.
Some owners may not experience any problems and will instead get an over-the-air software update from the manufacturer, while others will need to go to a dealership to get updates. For example, Ford and Mazda use the driver’s mobile device emergency services connections, so that’s not a problem. Unfortunately, others will need a physical upgrade to 4G, and that cost can vary from a small fee to upwards of $900 if you own select Honda models.
Another example is 2015 and older Tesla vehicles, which will lose 3G soon, but owners can schedule an upgrade for $200. In addition, Volkswagen and others will offer 3rd party solutions that can range upwards of $295 for the upgrade and monthly fees for unlimited data.
Again, this varies from vehicle to vehicle and depends on which features and 3G services are used. We recommend anyone with an older 3G-connected car contact their dealership or manufacturer for further information.