AARP worried about impact of dropping 3G phone service

DES MOINES — Some major cellular service providers will switch off their 3G networks on February 22nd and Iowans who have older phones may suddenly find their devices no longer work.

Tom Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services at AARP, says he’s concerned for Iowa’s significant population of senior citizens, especially those in rural areas, who don’t use their phones very often.

“If you’ve got an old flip phone, you should figure out which provider you’re using and contact them and ask if that phone needs to be upgraded,” Kamber says. “If you have an emergency pendant for people who maybe had a fall and need to get help, you can actually just push the button and they will call you and you can ask if that button needs to be upgraded.”

Iowans who have an older loved one should take the initiative and check the status of their phones and other devices, and if necessary, help them with an upgrade. “About 20% of Americans are still relying on those 3G networks and about 10-to-15-million Americans still have 3G reliant phones, and that’s just on the phone side,” Kamber says. “You’ve got the alarms on top of that. The alarm industry is telling us they have millions of people across the country who may have 3G-reliant alarms.”

Getting a new phone can be an expensive venture, but in the case of 3G phones, cost may -not- be an issue. “Most of the companies that we’re hearing are offering free replacement services for 3G-reliant devices,” Kamber says, “so, there may be a very nominal or no-cost replacement available.”

In general, most cell phones made before 2012 are relying on a 3G network and will need to be replaced soon. The 3G systems are being retired to free up the bandwidth for the newer 4G and 5G technology.