3G network shutdowns could affect your yacht

Mar 24, 2022 by Corey D. Ranslem

The 3G, or third generation, cellphone network will be shut down this year as a transition to 4G and 5G. AT&T shut down their 3G network on Feb. 22, the first major U.S. carrier to do so. T-Mobile/Sprint will shut down their 3G network on March 31, and Verizon on Dec. 31. Most cellphones already operate on the 4G network, with many 5G-capable. If your cellphone is 2015 or newer, you should have no problems.

However, the 3G network has been used extensively for IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (machine to machine) devices. Currently there are an estimated 5 million IoT and other devices that are working on the 3G network. Could this be a problem for yachts?

“I think there will be a significant impact for those yachts that have not updated their technology since 2015, as a lot of the high-speed data devices were exclusively 3G,” said Jay Keenan, president and CEO of Global Ocean Security Technologies (GOST).

Keenan said the company’s security and monitoring systems were transitioned to 4G back in 2017 and their video monitoring systems were switched to 4G back in 2014, so they have no legacy 3G IoT systems.

Many other areas around the world have already begun the shutdown of the older 2G and 3G networks. Asia was one of the first regions to shut down these systems, starting as early as 2020. Europe is planning to have the legacy 2G/3G networks shut down by 2030.

Some marine safety devices, such as the personal man-overboard devices, operate on the legacy 3G networks. If you have any IoT or communication devices that are older than 2015,  you should check with that manufacturer to see if there will be any issues with the 3G shutdown.