AT&T 3G Sunset and What This Means To You?

The AT&T 3G sunset is a term that industry uses to describe the decommissioning or shutting down of a cellular network technology.  In this case, 3G.  This isn’t the first time that we have experienced a sunset from cellular carriers and it won’t be the last.  When AT&T decided to sunset the 2G cellular network, everyone was in a scramble and most had little to no warning.  This time around, AT&T has given us a several year warning that they will be shutting down 3G in February 2022. 

GPS trackers, IoT, home alarm systems, cell phones, hotspots, and many many other technologies utilize cellular networks to send and receive data and to be connected to the outside world.  As technology evolves, faster and more secure methods of connecting to the public internet become standard.  However, cellular carriers can not continue to support outdated technologies due to cost and the spectrum (or frequencies) that they operate on.  So as AT&T moves forward with the 3G sunset, many people are already looking into their products that will become outdated once the sunset takes place.

Many people have asked what will happen with AT&T decides to sunset it’s 4G network?  Well, as of right now, AT&T has no plans on sunsetting it’s 4G network.  Hopefully we should see 10+ years from this technology and possibly even more.  4G will become the “foundation” of the cellular networks.  5G technology is great for speed, however it does not have the same propagation characteristics as 4G and will never be able to cover the majority of the USA.  As you venture out of the city, your phone and other IoT devices will count on 4G for their communication needs.  Also, IoT type devices don’t need high speed.  What they need is a stable connection with long distances from the cell tower.   The complete opposite of 5G. 

Today, both AT&T and Verizon are operating 4G Cat M1 networks that your IoT devices should be using for many reasons.  Becauce Cat M1 uses a fraction of the bandwidth and no voice, the cost to operate is much lower.  Not only is there a huge cost reduction, but also a huge savings in battery usage.  Your 4G Cat M1 device can operate for years on battery or even on solar power because the cellular modem is extremely efficient and specifically designed for low power.

Today there isn’t much you need to do to prepare for the 3G sunset.  Manufacturers of IoT type devices are currently working on upgrade roadmaps or replacements to get your 3G devices replaced with 4G units.  The main point that you should take from this article is to avoid purchasing any 3G devices.  Many companies are still selling 3G devices because they need to get rid of inventory.  They know that there are still several years before the 3G sunset which gives them plenty of time to get you upgraded.  As a consumer, you shouldn’t fall for this trick and only proceed with the purchase if the device is 4G.  On the other hand, you may be able to score some great deals on older 3G equipment. 

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