3G to 4G Cellular Conversions

Published October 17, 2018

Technology is always changing. Working in the telecommunications industry, I regularly witness the truth in this statement. Changes are always happening, but that typically means constant improvements for both the end user and the provider.

One upcoming change in technology that has been on the radar for some time involves older cell phones.  ETC consumers using a 3G device (and even some older 4G phones) will soon find those cellular phones inoperable. The reason: changes in technology.

Simply stated, the software that 3G phones use is becoming outdated. “3G” stands for third generation.  It has, for the most part, been replaced with 4G (fourth generation) cellular technology. 4G is a high-definition network with speeds up to ten times faster than 3G services—an important feature as apps and streaming become more and more advanced. With faster services, older phones just simply don’t have the ability to keep up, rendering them virtually useless. Maintaining towers specifically for those older, slower phones is not cost-effective for providers, ultimately leaving 3G devices and even some older 4G phones unusable, unreliable, and eventually no longer serviceable. In fact, if you still have a 3G device or older 4G phone, you may have already noticed it doesn’t function as well as it previously did.

Because ETC cellular phones operate off towers owned by the nation’s largest network, our cellular practices follow their lead. That network has announced its gradual phase-out of 3G devices. In fact, that network is now requiring all new cellular activations be 4G ‘compliant’ with VoLTE (voice over LTE). As a result, ETC is following suit.

The 4G with VoLTE devices are considered 4G ‘compliant’ because they use the data network to make voice calls. In non-VoLTE phones, it is usually not possible to make calls and use the internet at the same time (or if it is possible, the call quality suffers).  The ability to make a quality call with data turned on is just one benefit of the newer 4G compliant phones. Another benefit is smoother streaming with less buffering, and, of course, higher network speeds.

With the phase out of 3G, it’s natural to wonder how long it will be before 4G technology will likewise be replaced. The hard truth is that 4G will eventually give way to the next generation, as 5G development is already in the works and nearing wide-release.  But the phase-out of 4G devices is a very distant reality, given the long lifespan of 3G.

If you happen to be one of the consumers who will need to upgrade to a 4G compliant device, but are leery of change, rest-assured the change may not be as hard as you think.  In fact, you might even find that you like the newer smartphones, as my late-60/early-70-year-old parents discovered last year.

In the end, technology will always change.  Whether it’s cell phones, cars, televisions or other electronic devices, change is inevitable. And if it weren’t for changes in technology, we may still be riding around via horse and buggy and communicating via the pony express.