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3G Is Going Away: Next Steps For Your Enterprise’s Mobile Devices

Technology is always evolving, and older technologies regularly disappear to make way for newer iterations. One such example affects phones with 3G, a wireless standard that first became available commercially in the US about 20 years ago. Now, as newer technologies gain ground, major carriers plan to phase out their 3G services by the end of 2022.

AT&T (already shuttered) – Feb 22, 2022
Verizon (planned) – Dec 31, 2022
Sprint CDMA (already shuttered) – Mar 31, 2022
Sprint LTE (planned) – Jun 30, 2022
T-Mobile (planned) – Jul 1, 2022

One primary driver behind 3G’s demise is the move toward 5G wireless technology. With services to support everything from smart cities to connected cars—and hopes for nearly ubiquitous access and lightning-fast connectivity speeds—5G holds significant promise for forward-looking businesses. Carriers don’t have the resources to fully support old technologies technologies in addition to new ones, making 3G the next candidate for retirement.

Though the shutdown of 3G has been on the calendar for several years (COVID-19 and other issues resulted in numerous delays), it could still create headaches for businesses that haven’t yet updated their 3G-only devices. But upgrading and managing mobile device programs can be an expensive endeavor. In 2021, the average replacement cycle for smartphones in the US was 2.5 years, and that cadence is projected to shorten to just over 2.25 years by 2025. Whether your company has just a few hundred - or hundreds of thousands - of mobile devices, it’s important to control and optimize your equipment and subscription costs as wireless technology innovations continue to emerge.

How will the 3G shutdown affect your users?

Much of the workforce won’t even notice 3G’s disappearance. Most corporate-owned smartphones are new enough (i.e., iPhone 6 or higher) to utilize more advanced wireless technologies. However, a small subset of your company’s devices may still rely, at least in part, on 3G availability. For instance, some 4G devices were designed to fall back on 3G if the 4G signal wasn’t stable enough to sustain a call. Users in areas with a strong 4G network may never know the 3G option is gone. But those working or living in regions with spotty coverage might encounter problems if their devices can no longer hop to 3G in the event of poor reception.

Prepare your business for the 3G shutdown

Begin by assessing your corporate-owned mobile devices. If everything is 5G capable, there’s no need for forced upgrades. Ask remote and offsite workers about potential 3G usage in locations without sufficient 4G or better signal and work with them to identify the right upgrade options. Reviewing a large corporate user base doesn’t need to be overwhelming - a trusted managed mobility services (MMS) partner can assist in maintaining visibility across your mobile user segment and provide you with insight into specifics such as equipment ages, operating systems, mobile subscription usage and other important metrics.

Future proof your enterprise’s mobile technology strategy

As 5G becomes more widely available, the 4G devices you have today may soon not be enough to power your digital strategy. Consider how mobile technology and SaaS/UCaaS together drive your everyday business actions.

  • Which advanced apps—video conferencing platforms with real-time screen sharing, collaboration suites that enable document editing, presentation software to support customer sales visits, etc.—do employees use today, and which do you anticipate adopting within the next 24 months?
  • Have you empowered your workforce with digital tools capable of connecting with the rest of their ecosystems, from internal business systems to connected cars and beyond?
  • Should some users currently without a corporate-owned phone be issued one based on their role, functional duties or cybersecurity risks?
  • When was the last time you updated protocols for issuing mobile devices to ensure seamless access to automation tools, cloud resources and other emerging technologies?
  • Does your business leverage knowledgeable advisors to help optimize your technology strategy so you can focus on your core mission?

An experienced MMS provider can assist in evaluating your current environment and recommend mobile devices and services that align with your business needs today and into the future.

Take control of your mobile device spend

Shifts to remote work and the growing use of SaaS/UCaaS apps have likely changed how—and how much—your users consume mobile services. You want to ensure employees have the right mobile tools available, but you also want to align spend with need, usage and functionality. This becomes more complex as your user base grows and new technologies, either related to or beyond 5G, are adopted.

  • Consider if you’ve optimized plans and features for every user
  • Determine if costs for services and device purchases are appropriate and accurate
  • Know where service levels or price agreements are grandfathered into old contracts that could result in unexpected charges if you change plans or equipment

Partnering with an MMS provider allows you to identify historical trends around mobile service consumption, to understand spending patterns, to forecast usage based on your firm’s growth plans and to optimize and control your costs for equipment as well as services.

Look for sustainable options when disposing of outdated devices

No one wants to mindlessly add their old electronics to a landfill. Fortunately, an experienced recycling partner can handle disposal for you and ensure your outdated devices are properly recycled. Because equipment decommissioning is an ongoing process, working with the right provider frees your team from constantly tracking available recycling programs and understanding the latest environmental guidelines for safe disposal.

Maintaining an efficient and cost-effective mobile device refresh schedule can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are tools to help you streamline and automate your program. Advice and support from a trusted MMS provider will help you prepare for future developments in mobile technology and optimize your service and device spend.