By Anagilmara Vílchez
Older cell phones, tablets, and other devices that connect to the third-generation or 3G network will be obsolete in the United States when providers disable this service in 2022.
This means that 17% of the total users in the country who at the end of 2018 were still using this type of technology They will not be able to send messages, make calls, or contact 911 in case of an emergency, according to the GSMA association, an organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.
Medical devices, smart watches, SOS services in vehicles, residential security systems, among others, that depend on 3G will be disconnected, reported the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The decision is not new. In 2019, AT&T, Inc. It warned that it would do so in early 2022 to free up wireless frequencies for fourth and fifth generation signals, known as 4G and 5G, The Wall Street Journal reported.
But not everyone is ready for the change. According to data from the Opensignal company, in 2019 the 4.1% of its customers in the United States did not have a 4G capable device or in some cases they did not have the plan or coverage.
States that are densely populated and where Latino populations are more numerous are the most affected, Opensignal noted, as 9.7% of those who continue to use 3G live in California, 7% in Texas and 6% in Florida.
The most vulnerable people will be the hardest hit, insist consumer advocates cited by The Washington Post.
[17 millones de niños no disponen de alta conexión a internet para sus clases en línea, según un artículo]
“Unconnected people tend to be poorer, have lower levels of education and live in rural areas”, the GSMA highlighted in its 2020 global report.
Other barriers such as gender, lack of digital skills, affordability or literacy also affect, the study raises.
Although the 3G network allowed cell phones to do more than just call and send messages, the more advanced the device is and the faster users demand to navigate, what was previously innovative is now obsolete.
“Connectivity has never been so important and dependence on the internet has never been greater”GSMA noted.
“Internet access has helped ensure the functioning of emergency services, has allowed separated friends and families to stay informed and in contact, and made it easier for a large part of the workforce to remain productive during the crisis,” he insisted.
[“Nos están robando la privacidad”: migrantes se preocupan por el uso de datos de celulares por parte de las autoridades]
In 2018, 19% of wireless connections and more than 85 million devices were dependent on 3G, according to the GSMA and research firm Ovum, respectively.
The FCC reported that AT&T will deactivate its 3G networks in February 2022, Verizon will do so on December 31 and T-Mobile will complete its process between January and June.
For those who have not yet changed, the FCC assured that there are programs available, including Lifeline and the Emergency Internet Benefit.
The first “provides a discount on telephone service to eligible low-income consumers” and the second provides “a temporary discount of up to $ 50 per month on broadband internet service to eligible households.”