Industry Analysis



In the wake of newer technologies, e.g. 5G, older technologies are retiring to make room for the newer ones. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile will soon be retiring older networks. Further details about the shutdown, as well as its implications, are given below.

1. Verizon

3G Sunset Announcement

  • One of the major forms of communication from Verizon about the 3G sunset is the knowledge base that it has set up on its website.
  • Verizon also sent direct notifications to customers explaining its plans to retire the CDMA network.
  • Business customers were also notified of the network shutdown via the enterprise/business website.
  • Users of specific devices, e.g. the GizmoPal 2 by LG, were also notified through the relevant pages on the Verizon website.

Insights Relating to the Retirement

  • Although there are no reports that confirm if Verizon customers decided to leave the network due to the 3G shutdown, Verizon’s decision to delay the shutdown suggests that it might have faced some opposition from customers in this regard. That said, it could also be a decision purely based on their desire to offer convenience to customers.
  • Nicki Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon, also hinted that the carrier may continue to support 3G devices for few more years. This may also be a step to offer convenience to customers but again, it cannot be confirmed that this step is purely for the convenience of customers or a forced measure from Verizon.
  • According to recent reports, 79% of the 47.3 million 3G users may still be unaware of the 3G sunset.
  • A look at the Verizon Wireless Community website reveals that some customers are not happy about the 3G sunset. Apart from that, there have been no official/unofficial reports of any loss of subscribers to the carrier.

2. AT&T

3G Sunset Announcement

  • The carrier published a notice to customers that informs them of the 3G sunset coming up in 2022.
  • AT&T set up a FAQ for its business customers relating to the 3G shutdown. It answers a variety of questions, including why AT&T is retiring 3G, how will it help its customers switch to 4G, and other similar questions.
  • AT&T published a white paper compiled by James Brehm & Associates, a consulting/market intelligence firm, that investigates the current state of 3G for businesses and eventually boasts AT&T’s business offerings, specifically its network capabilities relating to IoT. The carrier also updated its website with a page that summarizes the white paper and invites its business customers to view the white paper.
  • AT&T also published a web page that talks about the implications of the 2G/3G sunset for businesses. A detailed analysis has also been presented in a state-of-the-network white paper compiled by James Brehm & Associates.
  • Notice of 2G/3G sunset can also be found across relevant web pages on the AT&T website, e.g. this IoT-related web page.

Insights Relating to the Retirement

  • AT&T has published a couple of white papers that discuss the current state of the network and the potential implications of the upcoming 3G sunset. According to one of the white papers, 2G and 3G power more than 50% of the total connected IoT deployments.
  • The number of 2G and 3G devices that will be facing the sunset has been estimated to be 64 million.
  • According to a survey, as many as 47% of respondents were not intimated by their service providers regarding the upcoming network shutdown.
  • According to another white paper compiled by James Brehm & Associates, “Network sunsets can be dark, confusing, and frightening times for enterprises relying on the networks being shuttered.”
  • 75% of respondents in a survey hinted that a partner that can help in making the change easier would be ideal and they would be willing to pay for professional services.
  • Reportedly, AT&T is the only company in the US that successfully migrated all of its 16 million 2G customers in 2016.
  • According to reports, the communications sent out to customers created confusion. Many customers thought that the carrier has already shut the 3G network down and they need to switch devices to continue availing the services.
  • It was revealed that the email did not include any information that suggests that the shutdown will take effect by 2022. Had the email been clear about this, it would have been a lot better from the customer perspective.

3. Sprint

3G Sunset Announcement

  • Sprint has announced that it does not guarantee service to 2G subscribers beyond December 31, 2021.
  • For 3G subscribers, Sprint does not guarantee service beyond December 31, 2022.
  • Sprint recently merged with T-Mobile on April 1, 2020.
  • While most of the web pages on the Sprint website are no longer accessible, some web pages may still be accessible, e.g. the Sprint for Business page. However, any announcements/notifications are still not found on these web pages.
  • Sprint did notify its customers about ceasing the activation of 3G devices, but rather “quietly“. It was also predicted that Sprint may delay its formal announcement of shutting 3G services down.
  • Boost Mobile users reported to have received a notification from Sprint about the 3G shutdown, however, it was later suggested that the notification could have been about the end of 3G device activation.

4. T-Mobile

3G Sunset Announcement

  • According to a July 2020 update, although T-Mobile has not officially announced the sunset of 3G, there have been reports from unofficial sources that T-Mobile has put forward a requirement to its handset makers, which requires manufacturers to ensure that their devices either support VoLTE calls or operate on 4G. The same sources have also suggested that T-Mobile has asked handset makers to also warn customers to upgrade to compatible devices.
  • According to the same sources, T-Mobile will soon start to notify customers about the change and the upcoming sunset of the 3G network. These sources claim to have gotten hold of a T-Mobile official document that was released for internal uses only.
  • Sources have also identified that T-Mobile will shut down the 3G network in January 2021, a year before AT&T does the same. The customers that need to upgrade their devices will receive text-based communications soon.
  • A T-Mobile spokesperson while talking to Android Police said, “We’re making great progress building a truly transformative nationwide 5G network. As part of that, we will be phasing out some older technologies over time to free up even more capacity for LTE and 5G. In preparation for that and to give customers the best experience, those activating new lines at T-Mobile will need a VoLTE capable device, which is all we’ve offered for years now and represents the overwhelming majority of devices on the network.”

Insights Relating to the Retirement

  • Since T-Mobile has not officially announced the 3G sunset so far, the impact of the network shutdown cannot be determined. However, according to some sources, most of the devices that T-Mobile offers in the US are already VoLTE-compatible.
  • Devices that may not work at T-Mobile after the possible shutdown of the 3G network include imported devices, e.g. those from Huawei and Xiaomi. The most affected customers will be tourists that use T-Mobile’s prepaid travel SIMs. Tourists will have to have VoLTE-supported devices to avail T-Mobile’s travel plan.

Research Strategy

The research outlines the notification of the 3G sunset to its individual, as well as business/enterprise customers, and any implications of the same. We have covered both internal and external communications, including direct communications to customers, website communications, and other forms of communication.Of the four carriers that we covered, i.e. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, Sprint recently merged with T-Mobile in April 2020. There were no official communications from the carrier regarding the shutdown of the 3G network. That said, some reports suggest that Sprint will not support 3G devices after December 31, 2022. It seems like Sprint deliberately delayed issuing any official notifications and waited for the merger. Currently, most pages on the Sprint website are not accessible apart from some pages of Sprint for Business. There were no relevant insights found for the impact of the potential upcoming 3G shutdown relating to the impact of the shutdown.As for the impact of the 3G sunset in terms of subscriber counts or customer perception, reports that cover the subject are hard to come by. The possible reason for that is that three of the four carriers have not commenced the shutdown so far; T-Mobile has not even officially announced the sunset as of yet. The impact might be more apparent once the 3G shutdown is implemented. Verizon is the only carrier for which there have been some reports of customer dissatisfaction regarding the shutdown, but there have been no reports of plummeting subscriber counts, even for Verizon.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.


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