Carriers to Retire 3G As Plans to Rollout 5G Expand Worldwide


The great 3G shutdown is coming. When it does, millions of devices could potentially lose their connection to the Internet.

With new equipment and enhanced technology developed for 5G, wireless carriers can deliver larger amounts of data much more quickly. However, they want to do so on their current 3G networks. As Vox reported, carriers can save a significant amount of money by repurposing their existing spectrum rather than purchasing new bands. As a tradeoff, this means they must retire older generations of cellular technology. So far, AT&T has turned off its 3G network, T-Mobile plans to do so in July 2022, and Verizon aims to shut down its 3G service by the end of 2022.

“It’s a one-or-the-other choice,” Kevin Ryan, a Stevens Institute of Technology professor who studies wireless systems, told Vox. “It would be analogous to trying to have two FM radio stations broadcasting at the same frequency.”

5G Rollouts Face Delays in Europe

As we previously reported, 5G rollouts in the U.S. and Europe are ongoing. Though they have experienced some obstacles related to the pandemic, as well concerns that the technology would obstruct airport equipment, many of these rollouts are expected to be completed by the end of the decade. According to Computer Weekly, a recent study from GSMA, an industry organization representing the interests of global mobile network operators, services in the mid-band 5G spectrum could add over $610 billion USD to the global GDP by that time, so long as governments around the world make it a priority.

However, European rollouts are facing some serious delays. A report from Ookla, a web service providing free analysis of Internet access performance metrics, found that 84 operators across 31 countries in Europe have initiated 5G, which covers 62% of the population. Despite this number, just 2.8% of connections in those countries are 5G, compared to 13.4% in the U.S. and 29.3% in South Korea. These delays are happening largely because some European providers are obligated to keep their 2G networks for the time being due to obligations in their contracts.

India to Begin Auctioning 5G Airwaves

Meanwhile in India, the second largest wireless market in the world with over one billion subscribers plans to roll out 5G are underway. The country’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, announced a plan to auction 5G airwaves this year, as well as intentions to increase local telecoms and electronics products. Under the plan, a rollout of 5G telecoms services will begin by the end of March 2023. Sitharaman has predicted that every village in India will likely be connected by optical fiber services by 2025, which will deliver higher broadband speeds.

“The finance minister’s announcement around [the] 5G spectrum auction, 100% fiberisation with [a] public-private partnership model will provide an impetus to build ubiquitous and reliable internet connectivity,” says Nitin Bansal, India’s managing director for Ericsson. “Design-led initiatives for 5G…will strengthen the ‘Make in India’ initiative, and contribute to making India a global manufacturing hub.”

While 5G will continue to experience some setbacks and delays, the technology will undoubtedly replace 3G and 4G. When it does, it will usher a new era of enhanced connectivity and lightning-fast internet speeds.

5G Networks

As technology continues to evolve toward 5G, it’s vital for technical professionals and industry leaders to understand how to deliver on the 5G vision while meeting consumer demand for higher communication speeds. Is your organization ready? Consider training your team with 5G Networks, a three-course program from IEEE and Nokia.

Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today to learn more about the program.

Interested in learning more about 5G for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network today!


O’Halloran, Joe. (25 February 2022). Mid-band 5G forecast to deliver $610bn GDP growth by 2030. Computer Weekly.

McCaskill, Steve. (25 February 2022). Europe’s 5G rollout is ‘behind schedule’. Tech Radar. 

Heilweil, Rebecca. (2 February 2022). 3G must die so 5G can live. Vox.

Phartiyal, Sankalp. (1 February 2022). India to auction 5G airwaves in 2022 in boost to tech economy. Reuters.

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