HARRISBURG, Pa. (WKBN) – The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are warning residents that 3G service for cellphones is going away.
The nation’s three major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, are shutting down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services such as 5G. The shutdown could come as soon as February 2022 in some areas.
Many older phones will not be able to make or receive calls or text messages when this happens. Data service will also be interrupted.
Also impacted in the 3G shutdown are some medical alert devices, tablets, smartwatches, home security systems and in-vehicle safety and roadside assistance systems.
“The best plan of action is to contact your service provider to determine if your devices are compliant,” said PEMA Deputy for 911 Jeff Boyle. “It’s important to plan now so you don’t lose connectivity.”
Lt. Adam Reed with PSP said the ability to call 911 is a concern with the older phones. He said it’s best to check with the service provider to find out if you need to upgrade your device.
“During an emergency, every minute counts whether you need police, fire or medical assistance,” Reed said.
Most people who have a device that will lose service after 3G goes away will be notified by the carriers. However, older phones that are used only for 911 connectivity may not receive notification if they don’t have active service with a carrier. These phones could be in the hands of the homeless or survivors of domestic violence who are given phones from organizations serving that population for emergency use. Those clients need to check with the organization that gave them the phone.
Low-income individuals concerned that their 911 only phones will no longer be supported should consider applying for service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program. Information about eligibility, participating providers, and the application process can be found at https://www.lifelinesupport.org/.