Keep your mobile phone, assistive technology (AT), and medical devices working during this wireless cell service transition.Read this urgent issue brief from AT3 Center.
The end of older cell networks is cause for concern, especially for disabled and older Americans.
What is happening to 2G and 3G cell networks?
During 2022, mobile wireless carriers are “sunsetting” their 2G and 3G cell networks. Wireless carriers are phasing out these services to make room for faster and more powerful networks, including 5G. Devices that rely solely on 2G and 3G will stop working (as well as some older 4G models). In addition, areas of the U.S. that do not have 4G/LTE service coverage will lose access to mobile wireless (“cell”) services completely. “The end of 3G is perhaps the most under-covered story in the industry right now with the widest potential impact, involving millions of cars from nearly every major automaker,” observes Rob Stumpf on December 9th, 2021, for The Drive.
Of equal concern should be a consumer’s access to their medical and assistive technology.
Why ending 2G and 3G is alarming for assistive technology (AT) users
Regardless of where a consumer lives, devices that currently use a 2G or 3G network will fail in 2022. In addition, areas of the U.S. that do not have 4G/LTE coverage will lose mobile services altogether (voice calls, access to 9-1-1, text messaging, and data services).
According to the wireless industry (CTIA), “Today, fewer than 9% of U.S. wireless connections are 2G or 3G subscriptions, but that amount may vary by national, regional and prepaid providers.” Indeed, the FCC’s map of 4G/LTE coverage options demonstrates that certain rural regions disproportionately must rely on 3G service, including vast areas of the western U.S., Appalachia, NY state, and Maine. While not densely populated, rural communities are also home to an older demographic that could lose mobile service, disconnecting devices that rely on 2G and 3G. These include forms of assistive technology and certain medical devices.
What should AT users and providers do to stay connected?
Contact your mobile wireless provider or consult your provider’s website for more information about their 3G retirement plan and to learn of special offers and discounts that may assist with upgrading an older mobile phone. According to the Texas Technology Access Program, phones older than an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S4 may be affected; some devices may only require a software update to enable VoLTE (HD Voice) or other advanced services.
No matter where you live, learn if there are additional data-connected devices you or your clients rely on that will need new hardware or a software update to function in 2022. Devices that connect via a broadband internet service will not be affected. Contact device vendors for their guidance. You may be unaware a medical device is data-dependent if it is plug and play.
For some AT users, this is an urgent and complicated consideration. Technologies relying on these older wireless cell networks can include:
security, fire, and personal medical alert systems;
medical devices, including pacemakers, heart monitors, insulin pumps, and CPAP machines;
assistive technology devices with SIM cards (including older augmentative communication devices and braille note takers);
The AT3 Center, the Association of AT Act Programs (ATAP), and the Administration on Community Living (ACL) make no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this blog. The AT3 Center, ATAP, and ACL have not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device hereto referred.
The Assistive Technology Act Training and Technical Assistance Center(AT3/AT3 Center) is a project funded under grant award # 90ATTA0001 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL). AT3 provides technical assistance and supports to State Assistive Technology (AT) Programs funded under Section 4 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (P.L. 108-364). The AT3 Center is a sponsored project of the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) The information on this website does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of ACL, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
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