Jump to content

Upcoming 3G shutdown


Recommended Posts

On February 22, 2022 AT&T is going to be the first US cellular carrier to disable its 3G network. The other carriers will follow suit later in the year.

Many people are probably assuming that this will not affect them because they don't own any 3G hardware. That's not necessarily the case. It turns out that lots of so-called 4G hardware actually accesses the 3G network as part of the authentication process when it connects to the cellular network.

Yes, you read that right! Many 4G devices actually need the 3G network in order to make a connection. So what happens when the 3G network is no longer there? Well, they don't connect unless a "work around" is implemented.

This can happen to older phones, but, these days, most people are probably already using phones that are true 4G devices and don't rely on the 3G network. But it will affect lots of devices that contain cellular modems including routers, tablets, IoT devices and even automobiles.

For example, many cars contain emergency reporting capabilities (think OnStar and others) that use cellular networks for accident reporting and assistance. Quite a few of those will be effected by the 3G shutdown and, for some of them, the loss of connectivity will be permanent--there will be no plans to update the firmware.

The technical explanation for this is complicated and it involves discussion of exotic topics such as voice centric and data centric modems. Suffice it to say that the problem is real and, in the case of AT&T, very time-sensitive.

The reason I'm positing this is to make people aware that they may be using devices that will be affected by the 3G shutdown. The best way to find out if this is the case is to go to the manufacturer's website for the particular device.

WiFiRanger has already implemented a firmware fix to this problem for those routers it sells that contain integrated cellular modems. How to implement their fix is explained in a blog post on the WiFiRanger website. Other hardware vendors are probably making similar posts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

Do you have any idea if this will affect Mobley's?

Mobley devices will not be affected. Like most 4G/LTE hotspots, the Mobley is 3G capable as a fall back when 4G is not available, but lacking a 3G signal, that feature won't work of course.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Mobley devices will not be affected. Like most 4G/LTE hotspots, the Mobley is 3G capable as a fall back when 4G is not available, but lacking a 3G signal, that feature won't work of course.

Although it may or may not be true that the Mobley isn't affected, what you stated as the reason isn't accurate.

The Mobley contains a cellular modem as do all devices that connect to the network.  Modems are classified as voice-centric or data-centric.  This distinction has nothing to do with whether they are being used for phones or data-only devices.  Some voice-centric modems are affected by the 3G shutdown because they use the 3G network as part of the authentication process when they sign onto the 4G network.

As an example, WiFiRanger designs and markets routers that contain Quectel modems.  Quectel is a major modem manufacturer whose products are sold world-wide.  The modems WiFiRanger uses are, most definitely, 4G modems but they are affected by the 4G shutdown.  If we did not create a work-around, they would not function after the 3G shutdown.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It sounds like we will know in late February if those using a Mobley are affected.  I moved our Mobley SIM to a Unite Explore mobile hotspot years ago, so hopefully we are OK.  If not, I will buy a newer hotspot and move the SIM again.  

All I know is the Mobley uses the Qualcomm MDM9215 chipset.  I can't find information on if this chipset is affected by the 3G shutdown.

Edited by Bill Joyce
Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, docj said:

Although it may or may not be true that the Mobley isn't affected, what you stated as the reason isn't accurate.

The Mobley contains a cellular modem as do all devices that connect to the network.  Modems are classified as voice-centric or data-centric.  This distinction has nothing to do with whether they are being used for phones or data-only devices.  Some voice-centric modems are affected by the 3G shutdown because they use the 3G network as part of the authentication process when they sign onto the 4G network.

As an example, WiFiRanger designs and markets routers that contain Quectel modems.  Quectel is a major modem manufacturer whose products are sold world-wide.  The modems WiFiRanger uses are, most definitely, 4G modems but they are affected by the 4G shutdown.  If we did not create a work-around, they would not function after the 3G shutdown.

The ZTE Mobley hotspot modem supports 4G/LTE and should not be affected by the 3G shutdown. Many of us have switched the Mobley SIM to newer hotspots with more advanced features though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Mobley devices will not be affected. Like most 4G/LTE hotspots, the Mobley is 3G capable as a fall back when 4G is not available, but lacking a 3G signal, that feature won't work of course.

Maybe not.  I see other ZTE devices, but not the VM6200 (Mobley) listed under "These Wireless Home Phone (WHP) and AT&T Wireless Internet (AWI) devices will still work on our network after we phase out 3G in February 2022"

https://www.att.com/idpassets/images/support/wireless/Devices-Working-on-ATT-Network.pdf

The question is which mode does it use to log onto the cellular system?  I guess we'll find out soon.

And how did I get into / get out of Centered Text mode?

 

Edited by Lou Schneider
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Dutch_12078 said:

The ZTE Mobley hotspot modem supports 4G/LTE and should not be affected by the 3G shutdown. Many of us have switched the Mobley SIM to newer hotspots with more advanced features though.

As I said in my previous post, the fact that a device support 4G/LTE is not a basis for stating that it will be Ok after the 3G shutdown. 

From the below-referenced FCC document: This will affect 3G mobile phones and certain older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice).   (emphasis added)

[NOTE: even though a device is data only doesn't mean that the limitation relative to VoLTE doesn't apply!]

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/plan-ahead-phase-out-3g-cellular-networks-and-service

A discussion of this issue with specific reference to the Mobley can be found here:

https://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1894167-Stand-alone-AT-amp-T-Unlimited-ZTE-Mobley-Hotspot-now-only-20!!!!!/page493

Edited by docj
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If anything the 5G airport controversy may hasten the 3G shutdowns.  The issue is putting 5G in formerly lightly used C Band frequencies adjacent to those used by radar altimeters.  3G frequencies are further away and have been heavily used for quite a while so 5G expansion there shouldn't be a problem.

Edited by Lou Schneider
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Lou Schneider said:

Maybe not.  I see other ZTE devices, but not the VM6200 (Mobley) listed under "These Wireless Home Phone (WHP) and AT&T Wireless Internet (AWI) devices will still work on our network after we phase out 3G in February 2022"

https://www.att.com/idpassets/images/support/wireless/Devices-Working-on-ATT-Network.pdf

The question is which mode does it use to log onto the cellular system?  I guess we'll find out soon.

And how did I get into / get out of Centered Text mode?

 

On edit: I need new glasses. I did find my Netgear 815s hotspot that has the Mobley SIM in it listed, so it'll be interesting to see what happens to my Connected Car plan after Feb 22nd.

Edited by Dutch_12078
update
Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 minutes ago, Dutch_12078 said:

Look closely at that list. There's not a single AT&T supported hotspot listed by any manufacturer, whether it's ZTE, or Netgear, or whoever. Are we to assume then that ALL AT&T hotspots will fail after Feb 22? 

Scroll down to Page 9.  If your hotspot isn't there or hasn't been patched by the manufacturer then the answer is probably YES.  Page 7 shows the tablets that will continue working. Sorry for the quality, I had to shrink the image to fit the upload limit.

AT&T 3G Phaseout.jpg

Edited by Lou Schneider
Link to comment
Share on other sites

34 minutes ago, Lou Schneider said:

Scroll down to Page 9.  If your hotspot isn't there or hasn't been patched by the manufacturer then the answer is probably YES.  Page 7 shows the tablets that will continue working. Sorry for the quality, I had to shrink the image to fit the upload limit.

AT&T 3G Phaseout.jpg

Read my post just above yours, Lou... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's the big question, Dutch.  Will the Connected Car plan continue past the 3G shutdown?  Will it be restricted to approved OEM installations?  Is there an approved replacement device for other vehicles if the Mobley sunsets?  Neither the ZTE Mobley or Harmon Spark (it's replacement) are listed as being able to work after the 3G sunset.

Swapping a Mobley CC SIM into another device was specifically disallowed under the original Terms of Service, though AT&T has mostly turned a blind eye up until now.  That could be explained, wait for the vast majority of authorized devices to sunset instead of tracking down individual violators.  If the Mobley and Spark sunset, any CC SIMs active after the 3G shutdown will stick out like a sore thumb as being in probable violation of the TOS.

Edited by Lou Schneider
Link to comment
Share on other sites

45 minutes ago, Lou Schneider said:

That's the big question, Dutch.  Will the Connected Car plan continue past the 3G shutdown?  Will it be restricted to approved OEM installations?  Is there an approved replacement device for other vehicles if the Mobley sunsets?  Neither the ZTE Mobley or Harmon Spark (it's replacement) are listed as being able to work after the 3G sunset.

Swapping a Mobley CC SIM into another device was specifically disallowed under the original Terms of Service, though AT&T has mostly turned a blind eye up until now.  That could be explained, wait for the vast majority of authorized devices to sunset instead of tracking down individual violators.  If the Mobley and Spark sunset, any CC SIMs active after the 3G shutdown will stick out like a sore thumb as being in probable violation of the TOS.

One thing that keeps nagging at me about the listings is the way the Mobley and Spark devices and accounts seemed to be handled by an entirely different department from the other hotspot devices when it came to purchasing and subscribing. The regular CS reps and the store reps seemed to be completely clueless about them. Whether that has anything to do with them not being listed, of course remains to be seen.

I logged into my MyAT&T account tonight, and I don't see any mentions or alerts that my Mobley might be an issue. It seems like 30 days out they would be posting some sort of warning along with an opportunity to upgrade to a newer device and plan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
20 minutes ago, Chad Heiser said:

Both of mine are still up and running, although one of the SIM’s is in a different device.

Thanks, Chad. Good to know and appreciate the response. Hopefully, ours will be working when we get back to it. Jay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have quite an old AT&T Wireless Home Phone and Internet box (ZTE MF271) that acts as a hotspot and also provides an RJ-11 (old fashioned phone jack).  This was sold as a way to provide home phone to rural folks who didn't have a hard-wired phone, but it also included an excellent price for 250 GB per month hotspot, and that is how we have used it for many years. I was concerned that it would go down with the 3G shutdown, but the hotspot continues to work fine. 

On the other hand, I have a similar newer device (Netcomm IFWA-40), purchased only one year ago, that I use(d) to provide phone service in my mother's assisted living apartment. She doesn't handle a cell phone well (forgets to charge it) so this seemed like a good solution. We have an old-fashioned answering machine with two handsets plugged into it. It stopped working on February 22nd, and the reason was the the phone portion was on the 3G network. AT&T is not selling any replacement devices as the demand for this service (cellular home phone) is incredibly low.

In speaking with the AT&T technicians, they tell me that the hotspot function on both devices will continue to work, but the the telephone side of both devices will not. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...