On Jan. 19, a watershed moment in the rollout of the 5G cellular network will occur, offering millions of cell phones in St. Louis and other urban areas across the county quicker speeds and wider coverage. However, the upcoming move, which is the latest in the 5G era, may leave certain devices in the dark.
On Wednesday, both Verizon and AT&T intend to turn on their C-band networks, a move that is expected to improve the speed and availability of the two companies’ networks.
The term “5G” refers for “fifth-generation cellular,” and it is hailed as the next great thing in cellular technology. The Federal Communications Commission claims that 5G will provide users with faster service, fewer delays, and more capacity.
“This is the second wave of the 5G era,” said Andy Choi, a Verizon communication manager. “With Version’s Ultra Wideband network, more than 100 million individuals in 1,700 cities around the country will have access.”
While 5G has been available to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile users for more than a year, the new C-band networks slated to launch on Wednesday are expected to increase the network’s speed and availability even more. According to Choi, the gains will be most noticeable during packed events such as concerts or athletic events.
However, certain airports will not have access to the new network. The Federal Aviation Administration has cautioned that some aircraft instrumentation may be affected. According to Choi, this will push back the rollout of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service to select locations near airports until later this year.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport and Kansas City International Airport are two of the 50 locations where 5G will be limited.
‘It’s not going to work,’ says the narrator.
As the rollout of 5G nears completion, Americans who still use gadgets that rely on 3G networks face impending deadlines.
Due to the network’s reliance on old technology and a need for more frequency space that is being taken up by old cellular devices, mobile carriers such as AT&T and Verizon are shutting down their 3G networks. AT&T will be the first to shut down in February, with the rest of the companies following suit by the end of the year.
According to the FCC, this implies that outdated 3G phones won’t be able to receive messages or calls, including 911 calls, or use data services.
The AARP affiliate Older Adults Technology Services, which helps seniors learn and use technology, is warning all Americans that the phase-out of 3G could have an impact on:
Phones from the year 2012 or before (including flip phones, pre-2012 smartphones)
Security systems for the home
Medical devices and medical alert wristbands are both available.
“One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that many seniors tend to hold on to their technology devices for far too long,” said Tom Kamber, founder and executive director of OATS. “And after three or four years, that software and an old device become obsolete, putting you at risk for gadget breakdowns for difficulties that the equipment accomplishes all it’s meant to do.”
According to Kamber, outdated technology might expose users to security risks, so now is as good a time as any to inquire about whether the devices you rely on use 3G technology.
“We know it for a fact, and we know that millions of people rely on obsolete gadgets,” Kamber said. “We’re convinced that some people in America will not be aware of this shift, and they’ll open their phone or push their alarm button and it won’t work.”
The digital divide and 5G
According to Angela Siefer of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, while leading telecom providers like Verizon claim 5G as a solution for bridging the digital divide, this hasn’t shown to be true so far.
“5G will not close the digital gap,” she stated emphatically. “Because the digital divide isn’t just a question of broadband availability; it’s also a question of cost, digital literacy, and the right gadgets.”
Wireless companies have traditionally rolled out new services and technology in locations where consumers can afford to upgrade, leaving rural towns and low-income consumers mostly unaffected, according to Siefer.
“We know that the lower a person’s income is, the less likely they are to have home broadband,” Siefer said. “A household with a lower income is more likely to rely on a mobile phone as their only source of internet service or other public free Wi-Fi alternatives.”
Consumers who may not be able to afford new devices or higher cellular phone costs may be eligible for financial assistance, according to Siefer. Consumers who qualify for the federal Lifeline program receive a discount on wireless and internet service. It’s an underutilized benefit, according to Siefert.
“Some individuals find out because the carrier sometimes notifies them it’s there,” Siefer explained. “A lot of the word has travelled through community-based groups or other social service entities,” says the author.
Aside from Lifeline, the federal government spends $4.5 billion each year on a program called High Cost. Its goal is to encourage communication technology firms to develop their networks “in rural areas where the market alone cannot sustain the significant expense of establishing network equipment and offering connection.”
“All of the solutions that are out there need to be possibilities for various rural communities,” Siefert added.