Helping a family member get a “free” 4G phone from T-Mobile was surprisingly complicated, especially considering the company has been very clear for weeks that it was killing its 3G network. They received a text message saying they were eligible for a new 4G-capable OnePlus phone — but unlike other carriers that give away free 4G phones, T-Mobile required a replacement for a device in good condition.
It was this requirement that made it difficult. My family member is using an iPhone 5S that was first purchased in 2014 and the screen keeps separating from the rest of the phone. This iPhone 5S was originally purchased for Verizon and was not compatible with T-Mobile’s LTE network. The phone is rarely used because this family member prefers to use an iPad at home, so we get them on a prepaid plan for less than $3 a month.
Should I try to trade in an obviously damaged iPhone? Should we pull out another working phone and trade it in? And since we’re paying for the service, what happens if we can’t get this family member a new device before the 3G connection?
These challenges got me interested in more than just the T-Mobile experience, and I reached out to the three major carriers, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, to see how they’re helping customers who need more time before switching to a newer carrier. telephone.
Ending 3G networks could be a good thing
While the shutdown of 3G networks will cut off access to mobile networks for older phones and devices, it does open up a number of opportunities to improve phone functionality between feature phones and smartphones.
Anshel Sag, mobility analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, noted that moving customers away from these less secure devices is also driving them toward better calling experiences, such as voice over LTE (VoLTE) audio calls.
“I think the consumer should have some level of choice, but at the same time, stray users can be a burden on the rest of the user base in terms of access to new services,” Sag said. For example, these enhanced VoLTE calls are now available on both smartphones and 4G-enabled feature phones.
While Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T are all clearly developing their 5G networks, customers who migrate to 4G-only devices don’t have to worry about being forced into another phone anytime soon. Sag predicted that LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks have a long lifespan.
“It’s probably another 10 years before 4G takes off,” Sag said. He noted that the radio waves previously used for 3G may also change to accommodate faster 5G networks as operators work to improve coverage.
While Sag noted that there will always be a percentage of customers who choose not to upgrade to a newer device, he said it’s in carriers’ best interests to either help supply new devices or stop paying.
“These customers are legacy customers that they’ve had for a very long time because of the availability of 3G,” Sag said.
T-Mobile (and Sprint) network shutdown
T-Mobile is the latest carrier to shut down its 3G networks, shutting down its 3G UMTS network on July 1. In addition to this network, T-Mobile is also sinking Sprint’s 3G network on March 31st. T-Mobile still plans to retire its legacy 2G network, but no exact dates have been given yet.
A T-Mobile spokesperson said affected customers have been notified and are still eligible for a free replacement device by trading in their old 3G phones.
“Customers with 3G-dependent phones who have not yet taken steps to upgrade are still eligible for a free replacement by trading in their old 3G devices. The vast majority of those with UMTS devices who have not yet upgraded are covered by T-Mobile. Continue to receive 2G GSM network and service we do,” said the spokesperson.
T-Mobile also pointed to its network evolution customer support page, which details its efforts to reach customers and the retirement dates of each previous network.
AT&T stopped charging customers who didn’t upgrade
AT&T’s 3G network shut down on February 22. Before the shutdown, the carrier said on its support page that affected customers had been contacted and received free phones or SIM cards by mail to protect their coverage.
If an AT&T customer has not activated a 4G-capable device, they will not be charged for the service.
“If a customer’s billing cycle ends after the date their 3G service is discontinued, we have provided a credit and they will not accept additional bills,” AT&T told CNET in a statement.
The Verizon shutdown will be the last, and there’s still time to get a free phone
Verizon’s 3G network will shut down on Dec. 31, giving customers months to upgrade to at least a 4G LTE-compatible device.
Verizon is in the process of sending affected customers free 4G-capable phones, which will be older flip phones made by TCL, Nokia and Orbic. Devices require no purchase and are actively shipping. Customers who do not want one of these phones can call customer service to decline the offer.
Verizon will stop charging after the 3G network shuts down if the customer decides they don’t want to move their service to a 4G device.
“If a customer chooses to stay on a 3G device (despite additional requests from call agents or retail representatives), then that device will stop working at sunset. The customer will not be billed after leaving the network,” a Verizon representative said in a letter to CNET.
If you need more time to switch phones, you can still use your phone to back up important data
Once 3G networks are completely disabled, your phone will not be completely useless. While it can’t connect to cellular data, you may still have limited access to features over Wi-Fi, such as access to your contacts and Wi-Fi calling, where it’s supported.
Although the exact processes differ depending on whether you’re using a 3G-only smartphone or a basic phone, you should make sure that your important contacts, calendars and notes that live on the phone are backed up or saved to another service. it can then be downloaded to another device.
They probably have 3G phonesand so while the device may work, it’s important to make sure it’s not the only place where important data is stored.
I’m sorting out my family’s switch without T-Mobile’s help
Going back to my family members switching to 3G, I decided to bring both a damaged iPhone 5S and a long overdue 2014 Moto E to the T-Mobile store as backups. Both calls were declined, and when we asked the representative for other options, he said he couldn’t say anything.
The experience was understandably frustrating and left us with a few weeks to decide whether it was worth buying a phone we knew would only get little use.
We eventually solved it by finding another family member’s retired iPhone SE and swapping out the SIM card, but experience made it abundantly clear that another family wouldn’t stand a chance with a new phone.
A T-Mobile spokesperson told me that store rejection is not the carrier’s policy, apologized for the experience, and offered to resolve it through their Customer Service team.