3G network shutdown: what you need to know

3G's days are very numbered

Cell tower

The mobile world is changing, as not only is 5G coverage rapidly improving, but networks are looking to retire older 3G services.

This is true in the US, the UK and Australia, among other parts of the world, and it’s a move that’s likely to be a good thing in the long run, but if you’re still reliant on 3G coverage then you might understandably be concerned.

Below we’ll detail why this is happening, why it should ultimately be a good thing, how it might affect you, and what the timeline is for the shutting down of 3G networks.

When will 3G networks shut down?

Not every mobile network has yet confirmed when it will be switching 3G off, but some have.

In the US, AT&T plans to end 3G services in February (2022), Sprint on March 31 of this year, T-Mobile on July 1, and Verizon in December, which is quite a delay for Verizon as its original plan was to stop supporting 3G in 2019.

In the UK, EE plans to retire 3G by 2023 , and Three has confirmed it will switch off its 3G network by 2024 . The UK’s other networks haven’t revealed when they’ll switch 3G off, but they’ve all agreed to do so by 2033 , and we’d expect in reality they will do so much sooner.

In Australia, Telstra has said that it will shut down its 3G network in June 2024, and while no other operators have yet confirmed dates, we’d expect they all will over the coming years.

Why are networks doing this?

Mobile networks only have access to a limited supply of spectrum, which is what they use to transmit mobile signals. The more spectrum available for a given connectivity type (such as 3G, 4G or 5G) the better the service that can be offered in terms of coverage, reliability, and speed.

So by turning off 3G, networks can repurpose the spectrum that was used for this to bolster their 5G and 4G services.

Since 4G and particularly 5G are more modern, speedy services, this is desirable to do, and should improve the overall experience for customers.

Ending 3G services will also allow networks to retire dated, power-hungry equipment from the 3G era, reducing costs in the process. It’s a move that could also help pave the way to 6G .

What will this mean for 3G coverage and devices?

While it largely makes sense for carriers to end 3G services, this could be a problem for anyone who still relies on a 3G signal.

If you’re relying on one because that’s all your device supports, as it might be if you’re using a very old or basic phone, then unfortunately you’ll have to buy a new handset to stay connected. However, 4G and even 5G phones can be had very affordably, and we’ve got a guide to the best cheap phones to help you out.

It’s worth noting that some old Kindles will also lose internet access as a result of this, so this change could negatively affect a lot of gadgets, but mostly only older ones.

Many cars will be affected too, as a lot of those made between 2010 and 2021 use 3G for their smarter services, such as location and traffic data on navigation systems. 

The good news is that some of these cars will be eligible for a software upgrade to solve this problem, and in some cases this can be carried out wirelessly.

Alternatively, if your car is affected you could consider either relying on your smartphone’s GPS mapping services, or buying a dedicated sat nav. However, this won’t fill in all the software gaps left by 3G’s absence, as if they're not updated some cars will also lose the ability to do things like use remote unlocking and remote start, or contact emergency services at the press of a button.

It’s worth checking now whether your car will be affected and what you can do if it is, especially in the US, where for example some Honda owners can get a free software update until February 22, 2022, after which the update costs $900. There’s less urgency with other manufacturers and in other countries, but it’s worth keeping on top of.

Where the 3G shutdown becomes an even bigger problem is if you live or work in an area that only gets 3G coverage, as you might go from that to having no coverage at all. This can be the case in some rural locations in particular.

However, as 4G and 5G networks grow, this is increasingly rare, and with the extra spectrum operators will gain for these technologies from the 3G shutoff, they should be in a position to more rapidly expand 4G and 5G coverage, filling in many of the coverage gaps.

Hopefully then a lack of coverage won’t affect many users, and those that are affected won’t be for long.

What about 2G and 4G?

The days of 2G and even 4G are also numbered, but both will be around for longer than 3G in some places. In the case of 2G that might seem strange since it’s an even older and more basic technology, but it also has lower power requirements, which makes it handy for certain Internet of Things (IoT) devices, especially those that require long battery life.

However, UK networks have committed to phasing out 2G by 2033 – which will be a problem for smart meters, as they’re reliant on 2G and 3G technology. The US meanwhile has found itself less dependent on 2G, with most carriers no longer offering it – the main holdout being T-Mobile, which plans to switch off 2G in December 2022.

In most cases 4G will be around for longer, but Sprint in the US plans to end this on June 30, 2022 – however this is only possible because its customers will still be able to access T-Mobile’s 4G network.

For most carriers it won’t be practical to shut 4G down until 5G is extremely widespread, and we may not see it happen until 6G is available too.

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James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.

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3G networks are shutting down in 2022 — how it impacts you

The end of 3G impacts older phones and connected devices

3G logo on an old iphone

3G is about to take its final bow. The wireless networking standard that ushered in the smartphone era is getting shut down in 2022, as carriers look to build up more current technologies. 

That means devices that still rely on 3G — from smartphones to tablets to alarm systems — won't be able to connect anymore once carriers pull the plug on 3G. But the good news is this shutdown has been a long time coming, giving carriers and device makers plenty of time to ensure a smooth transition.

Here's what you need to know about the 3G shutdown and how it could impact you.

What is happening with 3G networks?

AT&T: February 2022 T-Mobile: March 2022 (Sprint); July 2022 (T-Mobile) Verizon: Dec. 31, 2022

All the major wireless carriers in the U.S. are planning on shutting down their 3G networks in 2022, though some carriers are flicking the off switch sooner than others. 

AT&T is first up, planning to turn off 3G in February. T-Mobile will first shut down Sprint's 3G network on March 31 — remember, the two carriers have merged with T-Mobile absorbing Sprint's customers — and T-Mobile's own 3G network is targeted for a July shutdown.

Verizon has pushed back its 3G shutdown date before, but as of December 31, 2022, the carrier claims its 3G coverage will be no more.

Keep in mind this doesn't just affect customers of those specific carriers. MVNOs , which turn to the networks of larger carriers to provide their wireless coverage, will lose access to 3G once the parent network shuts it down. So if you're a customer of Cricket Wireless, you won't be able to access AT&T's 3G network after it shuts down in February.

Why are carriers shutting down their 5G networks?

There are efficiencies to be gained by not running three different networks. But, really, it comes down to spectrum. — Jason Leigh, IDC

There are a couple reasons why carriers are ready to pull the plug on 3G, and the first comes down to progress. Commercial 4G networks first went live in 2009, and 5G followed a decade later. Throw in 3G, and that's a lot of different networks to keep up and running.

"There are efficiencies to be gained by not running three different networks," said Jason Leigh, research manager for mobility at IDC. "But really, it comes down to spectrum."

In other words, 3G connectivity uses parts of the wireless spectrum. If carriers no longer have to support their aging 3G networks, they can then reallocate that spectrum to other forms of connectivity.

"They need that spectrum they're using for 3G for more advanced services, for 4G and 5G," agreed Bill Menezes, a director analyst at market research firm Gartner. 

3G uses low- and mid-band spectrum to keep devices connected. That's particularly valuable real estate, as that spectrum can travel greater distances than high-band spectrum and have an easily time penetrating buildings. That's been an area where 5G has fallen short, so carriers are likely to use that freed-up 3G spectrum to improve the reach of their growing 5G networks.

What phones will be affected by the 3G shutdown?

Most phones released in the past few years will work just fine after 3G networks go away. The key is to have a handset that supports voice over LTE, which would certainly cover any recently released phone as this has been the standard for a while.

• iPhone 5 • iPhone 5s • iPhone 5c • Samsung Galaxy S4 • Samsung Galaxy S III • iPad 2

As an example, Leigh notes that Verizon stopped certifying 3G devices in 2018. That's three years ago, giving people plenty of time to upgrade to more modern equipment capable of connecting to LTE networks.

Still, while the number of phones affected isn't large, it's not an insignificant figure. Menezes cited a figure from AT&T back in September where the carrier said that 2.7% of its customers would be impacted by the 3G shutdown. With more than 195 million customers at the end of September, that would translate to around 5 million people.

Because carriers have known about this transition for a while, they've likely been in contact with customers whose phones will stop connecting to 3G at some point in 2022. Customers of the respective carriers can find information pages from AT&T , Verizon and T-Mobile . (The latter carrier also has information for former Sprint customers.)

The biggest impact may be on low-income household which don't have the means to upgrade to new phones at the drop of the hat. However, the Federal Communications Commission offers a Lifeline service that provides discounts on phone service for some low-income consumers. There's more information on that program on the FCC's own web page explaining the 3G network shutdown .

Other phones impacted may not necessarily be ones used for everyday connectivity. Leigh notes that his father keeps an old flip phone in the glove compartment of his car to stay connected; that backup phone will likely need to be replaced before 3G goes away.

Are there any other devices that are going to be affected?

My guess is the minority of [affected 3G devices] are handheld phones. Most are internet-of-things devices. — Bill Menezes, Gartner

The 3G shutdown affects more than just phones. Other devices make use of 3G connectivity, too, and because they're not upgraded as frequently as phones are, the impact of 3G networks being turned off will be more acute.

"My guess is the minority of [affected 3G devices] are handheld phones," Menezes said. " Most are internet-of-things devices."

Specifically, connected devices ranging from car navigation systems to home security systems to medical equipment all rely on 3G. So do older tablets and e-readers that offer cellular connectivity — again, not the sort of devices you're likely to update with the frequency of smartphones.

There's a good news/bad news aspect to connected devices that rely on 3G. The bad news is that the burden likely falls on you to contact service providers to see if impacted devices are upgradeable. But on the bright side, those service providers and device makers have known well in advance that this shutdown was coming.

"They've known about this for years, so I imagine they've been working on it," Menezes said.

One possible exception may be makers of alarm systems who sounded alarms of their own this year that COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down their ability to go into homes and make sure that systems were updated. Again, that's something you'll need to check with your home security service prior to the 3G shutdown.

Is 3G also shutting down in other parts of the world?

The U.S. is actually several years ahead of the rest of the world in sunsetting its 3G network, IDC's Leigh said. That could create some awkward situations for travelers from overseas who might be expecting to bring their 3G phones on trips to the U.S. and pop in a local SIM card. Once the 3G networks are turned off, those phones won't work in this country.

As for other parts of the world, in the U.K., wireless carriers EE and BT are both targeting 2023 to turn off their 3G networks. The British government is aiming to have eliminated both 2G and 3G by 2033 at the latest.

Read next: The fastest mobile network in the US just might surprise you . 

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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

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Why Is My Phone on 3G Technology? Everything You Need To Know

Reasons to Use 3G

When the question, “Why is my phone on 3G ?” starts bothering you, your device is probably having a network choke. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you need to surf the web.

Phone on 3G Technology

In this complete guide, we will tell you why your phone may be stuck in 3g and how you can solve it. 

– Handset Is Set to 3G

– location only supports 3g or 2g , – 4g incompatible phone, – sim card not 4g enabled, – hardware defects, – outdated software, – activate then deactivate airplane mode, – reboot your phone, – clean your sim, – readjust network settings, – reach out to the customer support team, can you change a 3g phone to 4g, – will my phone work after 3g shutdown, why is my phone displaying a 3g connection instead of 4g or 5g, how can i switch from 3g to 4g or 5g on my phone, is 3g technology slower than 4g and 5g, will 3g be phased out completely, why is my phone on 3g.

Your phone may be on 3G because you are in an area that does not support 4G or 5G networks , your sim card is not 4G ready, your phone is not compatible with 4G, or your device has hardware defects.

Let’s look at the possible causes of this issue in detail. 

If you have been tampering with your phone’s settings as of late, you might have unintentionally changed the network settings, so check to make sure you are not operating on a 3G network .

However, in some instances, your phone may automatically switch to 3G technology for some reason. Notably, a phone can switch from a higher network technology to 3G to save power. 

4G technology typically consumes more power due to higher network attraction and usage. Mobile phones have network capability settings that allow them to switch to a suitable network based on the current situation .

Therefore, if your phone battery is low or you are in an area with poor 4G network coverage, the phone will automatically downgrade to a 3G network.

So if your phone keeps switching to a 3G network, check the settings.

Checking the Network Type

Here is the procedure to do this:

  • Select the Apps icon on your phone’s desktop and go to Settings.
  • Tap on Tethering & networks and choose Mobile networks.
  • Tap on Network mode. This will unveil a list of available network technologies based on your device type and region, so you can get 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. Again, most phones offer a chance to automatically change the network types based on several factors.
  • To enable 3G, tap on GSM / WCDMA auto . However, to enable 4G, select GSM/WCDMA/LTE auto.

Alternatively, you can follow this procedure:

  • Dial *#06# to get your IMEI number.
  • Go to www.imei.info, enter the IMEI number, and tap on “check.” This action generates a report; go to the LTE section and check the frequencies your phone can use.

If you see a 3G symbol at the top left of your screen but your phone supports 4G, it could be you are in an area that doesn’t have 4G capability. Your phone should display a 4G symbol or LTE (on Verizon) if you are in an area with 4G support.

Check the network indicator bar at the top of your phone’s screen when browsing for a cellular signal. This gives you an idea of the network type you are using. The simplest fix to this issue is changing your phone’s settings from 3G to 4G. 

Android phone: Settings>Network Settings>4G/only 4G.

iPhone: Settings>Cellular>Cellular Data Options>Voice & Data>4G.

If 4G is unavailable in your locality, your phone will automatically switch to the best available network, in this case, 3G. Therefore, area network capability plays a critical role . The capabilities of network providers significantly vary. While some may have a higher reach, others may struggle even to offer decent 3G network coverage.

All smartphones have an inbuilt feature that allows them to switch to the available network automatically. That’s why you see a network bar on your phone displaying 3G, even when your phone is LTE or 4G ready. Therefore, when your phone constantly shows a 3G network, the problem could be network coverage.

To fix this issue, you must first ensure that your area does not support 4G. So call your network provider for details about the network coverage in your area.

If the provider confirms that they do not have 4G coverage, do one of the following:

  • Move to a location that supports 4G: While this may seem irrational, it is worth trying, especially if your job needs better internet speeds . Settling in a postal code that supports 4G will allow faster download speeds, higher voice quality, higher bandwidth, and faster access to the internet, social networks, and streaming sites.
  • Buy a network booster: A network booster can help boost the weak signal to acceptable levels. Therefore, buy a powerful booster and install it on your building or in your car to help amplify the signal. This way, your phone will get better reception and service.

You cannot access 4G if your mobile phone is not designed to support the 4G network. In this case, the mobile device will remain in the 3G network state . It is probably so if you have an old mobile phone or a modern cheap device. Such phones may not be compatible with 4G.

Remember, 4G was first used in December 2009 and spread to other places at different rates. Sadly, some regions still cannot support 4G. Therefore, some phones sold in these regions do not support 4G.

If you happen to have such a phone, you are stuck with a 3G network. Simply put, your phone will switch between 2G and 3G networks. Before you purchase a phone, check its specifications to see if it is compatible with 4G.

If you already have a phone that does not support 4G, upgrade to the latest model. Some brands offer trade-ins where you will give them your old model in exchange for a new one, but you will have to pay the price difference.

If the subscriber identity module (SIM) card is not 4G ready, it will cycle between 3G and 2G, depending on the network strength. So if your phone is constantly at 3G, it could be that your subscriber identity module card does not support 4G.

Sim Card Not 4G Enabled

To rule out any other cause, check if your phone is compatible with the fourth-generation wireless technology. In some instances, your subscriber identity module (SIM) card may be from a company supporting fourth-generation wireless technology, but still, you cannot access the technology.

In this case, check the SIM’s status. Typically, you might have bought your SIM at a time when fourth-generation wireless technology was not operational. Alternatively, 4G services may not be enabled on the SIM.

If you suspect that your SIM is not 4G enabled, call your service provider to confirm . If indeed it does not, ask them if they can upgrade it. If your company still does not provide this technology, switch to a network that offers 4G services.

If everything else is okay but you still are stuck with 3G, your device may have certain hardware defects. Hardware defects are known to prevent connectivity . Some hardware components might have been damaged if you recently dropped your phone, had an impact, or fell in the water. Thus, the damage might be affecting your phone’s functionality.

To handle this problem, bring your phone to a technician for a detailed diagnosis. If a phone falls, its network chip may be adversely affected. Similarly, related hardware may get disconnected internally.

Only a qualified and experienced technician can spot and fix these issues, so find a service center and let the technician check the problem . All major phone brands have service centers in towns. For instance, Carlcare offers services for TECNO, Infinix, and itel phones, so find the nearest service center and visit it or book an online reservation.

It might be a production fault if you have a new phone without accidental damage. Consult your manufacturer via the official service center for the problem to be fixed. Usually, if the phone is still under warranty, the manufacturer will repair it free of charge if you did not cause the problem.

Software bugs can cause network hiccups. In worse cases, it can render your mobile device functionless. Remember, vendors do not support outdated software , so the new bugs within that software are not addressed.

Additionally, outdated software is less likely to work with new hardware and remains incompatible with a new operating system. Having such software in your device can lead to system failure.

The best way to beat software bugs is to keep your system healthy. You must take advantage of regular updates and upgrades to keep your system healthy.

System updates occur automatically in the background, but this is not guaranteed, so regularly check for updates and ensure they are in your software. Software updates are important for maintaining software. Generally, they patch vulnerabilities and guard against threats.

A software update may be what you need when facing connectivity issues. Beyond fixing your 4G network problems, system updates can resolve tons of other bugs and issues. For most Android phones, here is the procedure for checking and updating your phone software:

  • Launch your phone’s Setting application.
  • Tap on the System icon near the bottom and select System update.
  • This opens an update status; follow the steps on the screen to update your system.

Sometimes, you will get a notification to update your phone. In this case, open it and tap the update action.

What Are Some Tips To Get Your Phone off 3G?

Toggling airplane mode, rebooting your phone, and readjusting network settings are just some ways you can try to get your phone off 3G.

So far, we have given reasons and fixes to the question “Why is my phone on 3G instead of 4G or 5G ?” This section gives you additional tips on solving the issue on Android and iPhone devices. Check them out:

Sometimes, you need to toggle airplane mode on and then off to allow your phone to access the 4G network. Ideally, when you activate airplane mode for about 30 seconds and then switch it off, it refreshes the network system of your phone. This will trigger your mobile phone to connect quickly to the fastest network.

Most Android devices allow you to quickly toggle airplane mode on and off from the Quick Settings panel. If you do not have that option, you can access the airplane menu through the steps below:

Settings> Mobile Networks> Airplane mode.

  • Once there, activate the airplane mode for at least 30 seconds.
  • Turn it off and allow your phone to reconnect to your network.

These actions should let you connect to a 4G network, so check if you have a 4G status in your phone’s status bar. For better results, make sure that you turn off the Wi-Fi network.

Restating your phone can be another best answer to the question “Why is my iPhone on 3G instead of 4G?” Take note that when you switch on/off airplane mode, it activates the network system.

However, when you restart your device, it refreshes the entire system. This greatly benefits network connectivity . Mobile phones usually lose connection with their network more often.

Reboot Your Phone

So when you restart your phone, you clear bad data and free memory from several apps. Besides, it removes the conflict behaviors of different apps. This will force your phone to reconnect, helping with network and connectivity issues.

Restarting a phone is easy:

  • Long press the power button until a menu pops up.
  • Select Restart from the menu and wait for your smartphone to restart.

You can long-press the phone’s power button for about 10 seconds to restart your device for Android devices. When your phone reboots, check if it is still stuck on 3G .

Typically, this should resolve the issue, and the question of why is my phone on 3G instead of 5G should not be there. A phone restart reboots the software and hardware, thus fixing common bugs.

Consider removing and cleaning your Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card before reinserting it into your device. You may be receiving a poor network connection because your SIM is dirty or not properly inserted . Dust accumulation on the SIM slot can reduce network connection capability.

You will need to eject the SIM card, clean it, and then reposition it. Here is a quick procedure:

  • Use an appropriate tool to eject your SIM. You may need to consult your phone’s manual if you are unsure.
  • Take out the SIM and wipe the connectors using a dry piece of fabric. You may also need to clean the SIM slot , but be careful not to destroy it. Use a blower to remove fine dust particles, especially for the slots embedded on the side of the phone.
  • Reinsert the SIM and restart your phone

Now check if the problem still exists. If you are still troubled by the question “Why am I only getting 3G on my iPhone ?”

Try the fix below.

Resetting your network settings may help resolve the issues of being stuck with a 3G network. When resetting your network, it typically deletes existing parameters such as WiFi network and Bluetooth devices, but this can help fix your existing issue.

Here is a quick procedure on how to reset your phone’s network settings.

For iPhones:

  • Launch the Settings app and select the General tab.
  • Tap on Transfer or Reset [Device] and choose Reset.
  • Navigate to Reset Network Settings and tap it. This action will reset cellular settings, Wi-Fi networks and passwords, and VPN and APN settings that you have used before.

For Android devices:

  • Launch Settings and tap System.
  • Select the Reset option. This action unveils a list of options.
  • Select Reset network settings from the list. This gives you a warning of settings you will lose. If you are satisfied, tap on the RESET NETWORK SETTINGS button.
  • Enter the security check details, typically the screen lock. This can be the password, PIN, or pattern you use to confirm the action.
  • Finalize the process and wait a few minutes to get new network settings. Restart your phone.

Hopefully, these should reconnect your mobile device to 4G.

If you are still having difficulties getting a 4G signal, the problem could be with your network provider. The problem may arise in different situations:

  • Network outage within your area
  • Your line may be faulty
  • The carrier is having a network upgrade or scheduled maintenance

You can only be sure of where the problem lies by calling the provider. While you may use their toll-free phone lines to call them, the process might take longer. Using social media accounts such as Twitter or Facebook might be helpful.

But if you are sure that your SIM has issues, visit the provider’s local outlet for them to solve your LTE network problem.

Yes, technically, you can convert a 3G smartphone to 4G by changing some internal components of your mobile device such as the processor and the modem.

Also, you will need to check the phone’s software to see if it supports 4G. If it doesn’t, you will need to modify certain aspects to make it compatible. So in short, you will need to dismantle the 3G phone to make it 4G ready.

This is an expensive, risky, and highly technical procedure, so if you need to have a 4G phone, you would be better off replacing your 3G mobile with a new 4G phone such as a Samsung Galaxy. 

Nevertheless, you can give your phone advanced capabilities using the MTK Engineering Mode. This app can convert your 3G phone to 4G. Here is how to use it:

  • Install the MTK Engineering Mode from the Google play store.
  • Launch the app, go to MTK settings, and choose the Preferred Network option.
  • Tap on GSM/ 4G LTE/ WCDMA as your preferred network, save the changes and turn off your phone.
  • Insert a 4G sim and leave the other slots empty to prevent the device from hanging. 
  • Power your phone to enjoy a 4G network.

Take note that using this app does not guarantee a 4G network immediately. 

Is 3G Being Phased Out?

Yes, some mobile service providers are shutting down 3G networks to make room for more advanced network services. 3G relies on older technology, which is becoming obsolete. 

Is 3G Being Phased Out

Mobile providers in the US have already phased out the 3G network, while others are scheduled to phase it out completely by the end of 2022. Typically, the timings and plans to shut down 3G services vary by company and may change.

  • AT&T phased out its 3G network beginning in February 2022.
  • Verizon will finish phasing out its 3G network by December 31, 2022.
  • T-Mobile completed the shutdown of Sprint’s 3G CDMA network on March 31, 2022, and Sprint’s 4G LTE as of June 30, 2022. Also, it shut down T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network as of July 1, 2022, but hasn’t yet announced a shutdown date for its 2G network.

Other providers such as Boost, Straight Talk, and Cricket use AT&T’s, Verizon’s, and T-Mobile’s networks. So even if your provider is not listed here, you will still be affected. 

This depends on the phone’s hardware , but if you are using an old model phone, it will not make the trip. Typically, you won’t be able to make or receive calls and texts or use data services. The change will affect 3G  and older 4G phones without support for Voice over LTE.

Nevertheless, if you own a recent phone model, it will work fine, and you may not notice changes even if you lose access to 3G. 

Your phone may be displaying a 3G connection because it is in an area with limited or no 4G or 5G coverage. Alternatively, the device might not support newer network technologies, or specific settings could be preventing it from accessing 4G or 5G networks.

To switch to a 4G or 5G network, first ensure your device supports these technologies. Then, go to your phone’s network settings and select the desired network mode (4G or 5G). If the option isn’t available or doesn’t work, it may be due to lack of coverage or restrictions from your service provider.

Yes, 3G technology is generally slower than both 4G and 5G. While 3G offers decent speeds for basic browsing and streaming, 4G provides a significantly faster internet connection suitable for HD streaming, online gaming, and more. 5G is even faster, enabling ultra-HD streaming, instantaneous downloads, and other high-bandwidth activities.

Here are the main points that we discussed in this complete guide:

  • Your phone can automatically switch to 3G from 4G to save power or when you are in an area that does not support a 4G network. 
  • When your phone constantly remains in 3G mode, it may not have 4G capabilities. 
  • To quickly fix the issue of your phone remaining in 3G mode even after you change it, try restarting the phone or resetting the network settings.
  • 3G is being shut down in the US and other regions, so it would be better to get a 4G or 5G phone to continue enjoying voice, text, and data services.

These are comprehensive steps to help solve the issue with your phone not sticking with a 4G or 5G network. After reading this guide, you now know what to do to fix the problem today!


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LTE not working on your phone? Here's what you can do to fix it

Google Pixel 6 Pro front homescreen lying on concrete

Has your Android or iPhone’s 4G or LTE connection been letting you down lately? Or stopped working altogether? Don’t worry! You can try a few fixes before turning to your cell carrier’s customer support line.

Turn airplane mode on and off to get LTE working again

Airplane mode on Android phone stock photo 2

Sometimes the most obvious fix is the most reliable one. If your mobile data is giving you trouble, one of the first things you should try is turning airplane mode on and off. You can do this simply by dragging down the notification bar and tapping on the Airplane mode icon. You can also find this option under Settings > Network and internet, but the path can differ slightly depending on your Android version and phone manufacturer.

Turn on airplane mode for at least a couple of seconds, then disable it. In a lot of cases, your LTE connection issues will be gone and the phone will latch onto a signal as it should.

Restart your device to fix LTE mobile data issues

If toggling airplane mode didn’t solve your problem, it’s time for another tried and true step — restarting your device. Press and hold the power button of your smartphone and then tap Restart . Wait a couple of seconds and turn it back on. Check your status icon and test the speed of your LTE connection by opening some websites or downloading some smaller apps.

Make sure the correct network mode is enabled

settings network pixel

Depending on your smartphone and carrier, you should have a few connection types to choose from — 2G, 3G, 4G LTE or just LTE, and 5G . Usually, your device will try to connect to the fastest option. Still, if you’ve been tinkering with your settings or recently installed an update, that might need to be adjusted manually. Here is how to do it:

  • Go to Settings , Network & internet , then tap on Mobile Network .
  • Select Network mode . A pop-up list of preferred modes will appear.
  • Tap on Auto or the fastest (2G/3G/4G/5G) option.

Alternatively, you can try to disable 5G connectivity on your smartphone altogether to force your phone to latch onto 4G or whatever network is available.

Take out and readjust your SIM card

Sony Xperia 1 V SIM SD card tray

If none of the steps above did the trick, the problem might lie in an ill-positioned SIM card. Eject it using the SIM card removal tool and carefully reposition it in its tray. Be careful when inserting it back into your device. Once you’re done, your LTE connection should be back to normal. If you see other SIM card issues, such as a “no SIM card” error , it’s best to contact your network carrier and get a replacement SIM.

Check if you’re using the correct SIM slot

Certain budget Android smartphones only support LTE in one of the two available SIM slots. If you plugged the SIM in the wrong one without realizing it, it might prevent LTE from working. Try moving the SIM card to the other slot.

Reset network settings

How to reset network settings on Android 2

If you tried all of the above but nothing changed, it’s time to take a slightly more drastic step. Resetting your network settings. Here is how you can do it:

  • Head to Setting s, then find either Reset or Backup & reset. Tap on it.
  • From the list, tap Reset network settings or Reset Wi-Fi, mobile, and Bluetooth . Keep in mind that this step will erase all network settings, including saved Wi-Fi networks, paired Bluetooth devices, and so on. If you are sure you want to proceed, tap Reset Settings .
  • You will be asked to enter your PIN if you have one. Do so and confirm resetting your network settings.

Once you’ve done this, wait a couple of minutes — the new network settings should be picked up by your phone automatically. If nothing happens, a good old reboot is always an option, but in the end, your LTE connection should be back to normal. Factory reset is always an option, but don’t resort to it if you haven’t tried other steps first.

Contact your cell carrier

Sprint Verizon T Mobile and Verizon carriers stock photo 2

If you’ve tried everything else on the list and nothing seemed to fix your LTE not working problem, it’s time to contact your cell carrier. You can always do so on social media, but sometimes a good old-fashioned call might address your concerns better. Here are the customer support numbers of the major US providers:

  • Verizon Wireless : 800-922-0204
  • AT&T : 611 from an AT&T phone or 800-331-0500
  • T-Mobile : 611 from a T-Mobile phone or 1-877-746-0909 from another phone
  • U.S. Cellular : 611 from a UScellular phone or 1-888-944-9400 from another phone

Get your phone checked out for hardware problems

Sometimes, LTE not working is the fault of the phone’s modem, Android OS updates, or hardware. If you’ve recently dropped your device, that could have damaged the antenna or other internal components. Take it to an authorized repair shop to get it checked out or consult our guide on common Android issues .

If your device is brand new, on the other hand, but still experiencing consistent connection issues, you might have a faulty unit. Contact the smartphone manufacturer or carrier you bought it from immediately. You will have to send in your device to get it checked out. Make sure you back it up before handing it in. If faulty, you should get a replacement unit in a reasonable amount of time in most cases.

These are our tips and tricks on fixing your LTE connection. Did we manage to help you solve your issue? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re facing issues with your phone’s LTE connection, you can try a few simple fixes like toggling airplane mode and rebooting before contacting your carrier to check for further help. If all else fails, you should consult a smartphone repair shop or your device manufacturer.

If LTE doesn’t work on your iPhone, try restarting the device and re-inserting your SIM card, if you use one. If none of those options work, consider visiting an Apple Store.

To reset your LTE signal, either reboot your cell phone or enable and disable airplane mode.

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories .

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3G Service Is Going Away Next Year. Here's What That Means

A man seated outside reads his cell phone

Better call your grandparents’ flip phones now, because they may soon stop ringing.

Support for 3G, the 20-year-old wireless network standard, is ending in the US next year, when the major wireless carriers are planning to phase out service. That means many Trac phones, older Kindles , early iPads, and classic Chromebooks—any device operating on 3G—simply won’t be able to connect to cellular data networks anymore. The Wi-Fi radios on those devices will still work, but their mobile data capabilities are going kaput.

This so-called 3G sunset will come to pass at different times for different wireless providers. AT&T says it’s shutting down 3G services in February 2022. T-Mobile recently announced it would extend services to March 31 of next year, but not beyond. Verizon plans to pull the plug in December 2022. Carriers are shutting down 3G service in order to make way for the newer pieces of infrastructure that power the speedier 4G LTE and 5G networks currently expanding across the country.

Money is a major motivating factor behind the switch. LTE and 5G networks are just more logistically efficient to operate; get more users on one standard and there are essentially fewer moving parts to futz with. But there are also practical problems with continuing to service 3G customers. The connections operate on different signal frequencies. AT&T, for example, plans to reuse the spectrum that 3G currently runs on to fully enable its 5G capabilities. Without those wavelengths, the 5G signal simply won’t be as speedy. In order for the wireless future to flourish, providers say, 3G has to die.

“There’s really no backward compatibility when we look at LTE compared to 3G,” says Will Townsend, principal analyst of networking infrastructure at Moor Insights & Strategy. “That’s just because the standard was written 20 to 25 years ago. Unfortunately, when you go through some technology transitions, you don’t have backward compatibility. It’s just the nature of the way those standards and the architecture provide.”

Chances are this won’t mean much for you and your phone. Providers like AT&T and Verizon have long been pushing customers toward devices that run on 4G LTE and 5G. If you’ve bought a phone in the past decade, it likely has at least 4G connectivity. (Verizon hasn’t even activated new phones with 3G for years.) In a perfect world, Townsend says, the transition is a good thing. The grand ambitions of the switch to 5G will mean faster speeds, better architecture, and improved security.

This image may contain Electronics, and Ipod

By Klint Finley , Joanna Pearlstein , and Simon Hill

In reality, the 5G rollout has been anything but smooth. The process had a slow start , and even now the speediest connections aren’t being distributed evenly. A quibble over 5G standards has exacerbated international tensions . Even once they’re established, 5G networks aren’t perfect. They have security risks of their own. The signal has the potential to interfere with existing equipment, like the instruments used in airplanes. This month, the FAA issued a report outlining how some of the spectrums used in 5G connections could potentially mess with the altimeters used in aerial navigation.

For the majority of phone users, the transition will seem like more of a whimper than a bang. But there are 3G stragglers who will be left in the dark when the switch flips, many of them elderly or low income . And the devices they rely on include more than just phones.

Many devices within the internet of things—home alarm systems, wearable medical equipment, fire alarms, even ankle monitors—still operate on 3G networks. And 3G devices are used in industries from aviation to trucking .

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Nevertheless, the hands of the clock must keep turning.

“With any technology progression, there are always going to be resistors, and you can try to mitigate it,” says Jason Leigh, a research manager at the analyst firm IDC. “But at a certain point, you do have to pull the Band-Aid off.”

But that rippage has stung some industries more than others. Groups representing home security system and medical monitoring device companies have expressed their displeasure , petitioning the FCC to force AT&T to delay its transition until the end of 2022. One group, the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, has even gone so far as to say the current timing of the transition could endanger people's lives .

“The requested relief is necessary to avoid the harmful, even deadly, impact this sunset would have on tens of millions of people in millions of homes, businesses, and government installations due to a loss of central station alarm protection service,” the AICC wrote in its petition to the FCC. “Lives will very likely be lost (including many elderly lives) if connectivity is lost.”

Hyperbolic, maybe. But either way, AT&T doesn’t seem to be fazed. In response to resistance against the sunset, the company has written that further delaying things would “throw a monkey wrench into AT&T’s carefully planned 5G transition.” The feud has since gotten ugly. AT&T accuses the AICC of standing in the way of progress. The AICC accuses AT&T of endangering the elderly through negligence. Each side maintains that the other only cares about the financials.

This kind of transition between wireless generations happens about every 10 years. The old standards stick around for a while and then are gradually phased out. It’s a predictable enough cycle, and one companies can prepare for. That is, unless some world-changing, 18-month-long public health crisis pops up. The Covid pandemic has disrupted nearly every industry, including those that rely on 3G technologies. The alarm companies, for instance, say that pandemic restrictions kept them from being able to get into people’s homes to upgrade equipment.

“We were confronted with the pandemic, which took many, many months from us, where seniors and individuals would not allow people in their homes or really weren't focused on an issue like this,” says Daniel Oppenheim, an AICC spokesperson. “Just as these challenges sort of abated to some degree, we now have supply chain issues around getting products.”

Acknowledging pandemic-induced hardships, most telecom companies have already delayed their 3G sunsets by months to years. Verizon originally began its phaseout of 3G back in 2016, when it announced a target date of 2020. AT&T said the same shortly thereafter. In response to the AICC, AT&T contends that it has done more than enough to prepare customers for the 3G-pocalypse.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with a fast, reliable, and secure network,” an AT&T spokesperson wrote in an email. “These plans are not new, and we have been working with our customers and business clients for more than two years to assist them during this transition.”

“It’s sort of like the whole transition when we went from physical film to digital,” Townsend says. “It’s gonna be painful for some. I think for older folks that aren’t necessarily into the latest and greatest, they might be affected. But I think because the incentives are so compelling from the AT&Ts and the Verizons and whatnot to move people onto the newest technology, from my perspective, it's not going to be a huge factor.”

Eventually, all things must come to an end. So what does that mean for 4G and 5G? Townsend says not to worry, that 4G is likely to stick around for a long while.

“Each of these generations have been about a decade or more in length,” Townsend says. “There's plenty of runway here in the future.”

Update November 19, 2021: Updated language to clarify that the AICC says the timing of AT&T's 3G shutdown is what could endanger lives, not the shutdown itself. The group does not oppose the eventual broader 5G rollout.

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Troubleshooting your carrier network and data connection.

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  • Cell Phones, Mobile Accessories, Smart Watches, Tablets

You can tell your data is not working because of your data icon on your phone or you are unable to connect to the internet or use any apps that require an intenret connection.

Note: Some Settings , Menus , or Icons may differ from that of your device depending on your software version and wireless service provider.

  • Feature Phone (Basic Phone)

Check the signal indicators at the top of the screen.


It must also show a data service icon (3G, 4G, or LTE)


Check the mobile data manager

Check the Limit mobile data usage which allows you to set a limit for mobile data usage on the device. Once the limit is reached, your mobile data connection is disabled and you will receive a notification.

Mobile Data Usage Graph - Use to set and monitor your data usage.

data usage graph

Orange horizontal slider bar - Use this to set the usage warning level. When the device reaches this level, you will see a usage warning.

Red horizontal slider bar - Use this to set when the mobile data connection is disabled. Limit mobile data usage option must be enabled to adjust this slider bar.

Blue vertical slider bar - Use these to adjust the date usage range. All applications using mobile data within the given date range are displayed. This allows you to narrow down which applications used data during a given usage period.

Power off your device and turning it back on.

Press and hold the power button until the device powers down.

back power button

Confirm you are able to make calls.

If you are able to make calls the Sim card works fine and you are registered with your carrier.

If you are not able to make calls:

Try a different Sim card for the same carrier (You can obtain a Sim card from a friends, family member, or co worker, or check with your local carrier store).

Contact your carrier to ensure your plan is still active.

If your phone is unlocked, and you are using it on a different carrier, you may need to get your new carriers APN settings.


Drag down the notification bar, and tap airplane mode

Confirm cellular data is on.

The notification bar should show a data service icon (3G, 4G, or LTE)


Note: Data charges may apply if you go over your plan.

Check for carrier updates.

Perform a backup and factory reset

Please check the following article on How to perform an android back up

Please check the following article on How to perform an android reset


Check for carrier updates

To back up your information, connect your phone to your PC and copy your files over.

Master Reset: Restores the phone settings (e.g.: Audio, Display, Language, Bluetooth Settings) to default values.

Master Clear: Deletes downloaded/user created contents (e.g.:images, videos) from the phone.

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