It’s official. That old flip phone you have that runs, slowly but successfully, on your wireless provider’s 3G network is about to see its last days. 3G itself is ending. You’ve resisted the TV ads to buy that shiny new 4G LTE smartphone… but now they’ve got you! Better act soon – and, more importantly, you better be sure your trucking fleet’s communication devices and your drivers’ own cell phones are upgraded to 4G.

Here’s the timetable, by the major telecommunications companies:

  • Verizon no longer accepted new 2G or 3G activations after June 2018 and will shut down its 2G/3G network entirely by December 2019.
  • AT&T shut down its 2G network in 2016. AT&T will close its 3G network in early 2022.
  • Sprint has not made a public statement but is anticipated to shut its 3G network down in 2020-2021.
  • T-Mobile also has not made a public statement but is similarly anticipated to shut its 3G network down in 2020-2021.

Why the rush to close down 3G? And will someone explain these “Gs” and what they mean?

Telecommunications companies are closing 3G because they need the spectrum space for today’s 4G LTE users and to prepare for the eventual rollout of 5G. The fact is, it is also more cost-effective to operate at 4G LTE than on a 2G or 3G network because more devices can share the available spectrum.

The “G” in all of this stands for “generation.” In mobile communications and data technology, “4G” is the fourth generation of standards set out by the radiocommunications sector of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-R), a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

2G handled phone calls, basic text messaging and small amounts of data. 3G introduced us to real connectivity, with HTML pages, videos and music, right there on our devices. But 3G was still slow and required special formatting for web pages and data to be displayed. 4G, announced by the ITU-R in 2008, was only a target for developers, with speeds at that time unknown in commercial use. Today, 4G LTE (long-term evolution) is commonplace. Today those same developers are working on 5G – years away, as new networks must be built, but, telecommunications companies are already promoting “5G-capable” devices.

In practical terms, each new generation of mobile technology has increased speeds, allowing more data to be uploaded and downloaded in a shorter time. Each new generation has decreased latency – how long it takes a command or signal to be recognized and acted upon. Each new generation has grown its coverage beginning in urban areas – with a density of users – and moving outward.

And in practical terms, almost everyone has already migrated to 4G. But with the pending demise of 3G, now is the time to check your own communications.

One place you will not need to worry about: PrePass. All PrePass products and services, including the PrePass ELD and the MOTION mobile bypass app, already work with 4G. Similarly, all PrePass-equipped weigh stations and inspection facilities are 4G-compatible. No matter which provider you use, the coming shutdown of wireless providers’ 3G networks will not impact your continued ability to enjoy safe and successful bypasses with PrePass.