T-Mobile extends 3G switch off deadline

Renovated Headquarters
(Image credit: T-Mobile)

T-Mobile USA has delayed the planned switch off of Sprint’s 3G network by three months to give its partners extra time to help affected customers make the transition away from the aging technology.

The carrier had said it would pull the plug at the end of this year in order redirect spectrum, engineering, and other network resources towards its 5G rollout.

T-Mobile says its ‘Extended Range’ 5G now covers 308 million people in the US while its ‘Ultra Capacity 5G’ reaches 186 million. It plans to increase this to 200 million before the end of the year.

T-Mobile 3G

However, it said its partners had not done enough to assist customers with this migration and would therefore give its 3G network a stay of execution.

“It’s become increasingly clear that some of those partners haven’t followed through on their responsibility to help their customers through this shift. So, we’re stepping up on their behalf. We have made the decision to extend our deadline for the CDMA sunset by three months to March 31, 2022,” it said.

“Our reason for extending is simple: we want to give those partners who haven’t done the right thing for their customers every opportunity to step up now and do so.

“There should be no more room for excuses. We have provided even more time and those partners can follow suit with the effort that is needed to ensure no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

The operator stressed that this additional time would not impact the timeline of its rollout nor would it have any negative financial impact.

Mobile operators across the world have used 3G networks alongside their 4G services in order to provide additional coverage in areas where 4G is not available. However, as 4G has become increasingly available, the need for 3G and its inferior speeds and capacity is significantly reduced.

Most mobile data in developed markets is transmitted via 4G, while Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology means such networks can also handle the majority of calls.

Earlier this year, EE became the first UK operator to commit to switching off its 3G service and hopes to do so by 2023.

2G is likely to outlast 3G in many markets because it offers universal roaming and is used to power certain IoT applications. In the UK it has been suggested that any 2G switchover should wait until at least the 2030s, with a possible shared 2G network touted as a possible solution. However Swiss operator Swisscom has already turned off its 2G service.

Need an upgrade from 3G? Why not see if you can find a 5G phone deal to suit you?

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.