End of 2G and 3G Cell Networks Risky for AT Users

The end of older cell networks is cause for concern, especially for disabled and older Americans.

Cell phone towerAn article from the AT3 Center was published to alert Assistive Technology (AT) users that many of their AT devices that use data connections to cellular telephone systems may stop working.

The article reports that mobile wireless carriers will soon be turning off their older 2G and 3G cell networks to make room for faster and more powerful networks. Cell phone and other devices that rely solely on 2G and 3G will stop working. In addition, areas of the U.S. that do not have 4G/LTE service coverage will lose access to mobile wireless (“cell”) services completely. Areas of Maine are included in this change.

The article notes:

According to the wireless industry (CTIA), “Today, fewer than 9% of U.S. wireless connections are 2G or 3G subscriptions, but that amount may vary by national, regional and prepaid providers.” Indeed, the FCC’s map of 4G/LTE coverage options demonstrates that certain rural regions disproportionately must rely on 3G service, including vast areas of the western U.S., Appalachia, NY state, and Maine. While not densely populated, rural communities are also home to an older demographic that could lose mobile service, disconnecting devices that rely on 2G and 3G. These include forms of assistive technology and certain medical devices.

What should AT users and providers do to stay connected?

Contact your mobile wireless provider or consult your provider’s website for more information about their 3G retirement plan and to learn of special offers and discounts that may assist with upgrading an older mobile phone.

Technologies relying on these older wireless cell networks can include:

  • security, fire, and personal medical alert systems;
  • medical devices, including pacemakers, heart monitors, insulin pumps, and CPAP machines;
  • tablet computers;
  • smart watches;
  • assistive technology devices with SIM cards (including older augmentative communication devices and braille note takers);
  • connected services in automobiles such as GPS, remote locking, OnStar, and teen driver restrictions;
  • devices that use cellular connectivity as a back-up when a broadband internet connection goes down.

For more information: