Older cell phones will no longer work once the transition to 5G takes place in 2022.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) updated the public Thursday on what the 3G phase out will look like in Pennsylvania.

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have announced plans to phase out 3G networks as soon as Feb. 2022 to make room for more advanced network services such as 5G. This means older phones will no longer be able to make or receive calls, text messages or use data services.

“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.”

The phase out could also affect other devices that rely on 3G, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches, home security systems, and in-vehicle safety, security, and roadside assistance systems.

Here is the 2022 timeline for shutdown by providers, according to the FCC:

  • AT&T – February
  • Verizon – Dec. 31
  • T-Mobile – Multiple dates
  • Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by March 31
  • Sprint’s 4G LTE network by June 30
  • T-Mobile 3G UMTS network by July 1
  • No date announced for shutdown of 2G network

“If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down its 3G network and you lose service – including the ability to call 911,” said Lt. Adam Reed, PSP Communications Office Director. “During an emergency, every minute counts whether you need police, fire or medical assistance.”

Anyone still using 3G will be notified directly by their carrier. However, those with older phones that are used only for 911 connectivity may not receive a notification if they do not have active service with a carrier.

According to PEMA & PSP, approximately 70 percent of 911 calls in Pennsylvania are made from a mobile phone each year, either by a voice call or a text message. Text-to-911 is not yet available in all counties. You can find the status of text-to-911 service in the county where you live or work here.

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While voice calls to 911 are always preferred, there are situations where texting may be necessary:

  • Making noise may endanger the caller;
  • Someone is suffering a medical emergency that makes them unable to speak; or
  • Individuals have speech or hearing impairments.

Pennsylvania’s Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), where all incoming 911 calls are received and dispatched, process approximately 14.5 million requests for emergency services every year.