3G is on its way out in 2022. Carriers have announced plans to sunset 3G wireless networks throughout 2022 – some with plans to sunset it as soon as the beginning of this new year, and some waiting until the very end of the year. Throughout previous years, many of these networks even refused to activate new devices on 3G networks. But what is 3G? Why are companies shutting down 3G service? And what does this mean for your security system?

The Difference Between 3G, 4G, and 5G

The “G” in each broadband cellular network name refers to the generation of the wireless communication technology in cellular networks. New standards have been developed and deployed roughly every 10 years, with 4G debuting in 2009 and 5G debuting in 2019. Each generation has brought with it new standards and speeds to wireless communications. For example, 4G is still an incredibly common wireless cellular technology, offering 100Mbps internet speeds. The latest technology standard, 5G, offers better bandwidth and up to 10 Gbit/s! As cell phones are used more and more for applications requiring a great deal of download speeds, such as image messaging apps, video calls, and streaming movies and videos, cellular networks continue to try and meet demands by offering these new cellular technologies.

3G service is on its way out. Much like 2G facing sunset in 2016, 3G is now facing sunset in 2022. But why is this? For one thing, 3G is a much weaker network than 4G and 5G. The average speed of 3G was 3Mbps. These slow speeds don’t provide the modern smartphone with the download speeds required for the slew of apps we use. 3G was from a different time, where it was largely used for browsing text-only webpages or checking email. As a result, shutting down 3G networks will allow these companies to put more focus into 4G and 5G, allowing for increased data capacity and speeds on these modern networks.

How Do Communication Standards Differ?

Cellular is one of the more common communication methods many security systems use, but it is by no means the only one. Cellular communication is made possible by a cellular device emitting a an electromagnetic radio wave, or radio frequency, that is received by nearby cell antennas. Once the signal is received, it’s then transmitted to a switching center, where the signal is connected to another phone, or in the case of a security system, the signal notifies your monitoring provider what’s going on.

This differs from other methods of security systems, such as Landline and mesh networking. Landline systems are connected by the telephone line directly, but lack many features cellular systems do, such as home automation, and are generally less secure than cellular systems. Mesh networking, or mesh radio technology is a wireless network that lacks sunsets and monthly fees, but has a much higher up front cost for setting up, as well as being less user friendly. Cellular technology is intended for for devices like security systems, which largely connect to the cloud rather than being a closed system.

Why 3G Sunset Matters for Your Security System

Many modern day security systems run on 3G. During the switch from 2G in 2016, 3G was made the standard communication technology used in security panels. If your alarm system was installed with a 3G-compatible communicator, once the 3G network is sunset, it will no longer work properly, no matter who your security provider is. This problem doesn’t affect only a few companies, but every company that has installed and monitors a 3G-compatible communicator. As a result, if action hasn’t been taken on your 3G security panels already, then it’s important to get started right away. The reason that your system wont work correctly is because it will be unable to communicate over the cell network. This will cease the communication with the central station. It takes a cell radio that is able to communicate over LTE or 5G in order to use the modern cell networks, hence the need to upgrade.

In order to prevent any lapses in your service, it’s important to contact your provider as soon as possible. Ask if the 3G sunset will affect your system specifically, when carrier changes are coming to your area, how the rollout of the upgrade will work, and if you’re charged a service fee for the upgrade. Your security provider will readily answer all your questions and help you in order to best prevent disruption of service.

Cunningham will be here to help guide you through the steps throughout the 3G sunset process, through upgrades and general questions. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for any assistance required to ensure your security system is ready for the shutdown.