Verizon’s 3G network is no longer the backbone of its wireless phone service—every new device it sells is LTE or 5G capable, and that’s been the case for two years. But for some reason, the company says it’s halting its previous plans to shut down the older, slower network, previously slated for late 2019 and then sometime in 2020.
A company spokesperson told this to Light Reading in no uncertain terms: “our 3G network is operational and we don’t have a plan to shut it down at this time.” The representative went on to say that the company would “work with customers to move them to newer technology.” But with a definite shutdown date now off the calendar, it looks like users who prefer their older, 3G-only devices can breathe a sigh of relief.
Why Verizon would reverse course on shutting down an old and expensive network isn’t clear. The COVID-19 pandemic would be an obvious answer (as it is for more or less every unexpected shift in policy these days): perhaps too many customers were unable to afford new phones around that crucial but indefinite 2020 shutdown.
Verizon’s course change stands in contrast to the rising competition of a combined T-Mobile-Sprint. The newly-merged company is requiring new phones to support Voice Over LTE (making 3G all but obsolete) this month, and the older Sprint CDMA network is being shuttered completely as of early 2022. (Verizon also uses CDMA for its 3G phones.) AT&T has announced plans to end 3G service around the same time. With an expensive and confusing 5G rollout still in progress across the globe, it’s no surprise that companies are sunsetting older network technologies.