T-Mobile Delays CDMA Shutdown & Calls Out Dish

Today, T-Mobile issued a press release announcing that it will delay the phaseout of Sprint’s legacy 3G/CDMA network. The phaseout had been set to occur on January 1, 2022, but it has now been pushed back three months to March 31, 2022.

In the press release, T-Mobile takes shots at Dish but does not mention the company by name (emphasis mine):

To build out our revolutionary network…we need to sunset outdated CDMA technologies as soon as possible…This is why we have aggressively executed on plans to take care of transitioning our impacted Sprint CDMA customers by the end of this year and provided our partners plenty of time and resources to take care of their customers as well.

Recently it’s become increasingly clear that some of those partners haven’t followed through on their responsibility to help their customers through this shift. So, we’re stepping up on their behalf. We have made the decision to extend our deadline for the CDMA sunset by three months to March 31, 2022…Our reason for extending is simple: we want to give those partners who haven’t done the right thing for their customers every opportunity to step up now and do so.

There should be no more room for excuses.

I’ve updated my page on major networks’ 3G phaseouts to reflect the new plan.

Hat tip to Eli Blumenthal who tweeted about T-Mobile’s announcement.

Calendar visual

Dates For T-Mobile & Sprint’s 3G Phase-Outs

T-Mobile has been moving towards phasing out its 3G network for some time, but until recently, the company had not committed to a specific date. In a recently published webpage, T-Mobile shared a deadline of July 1, 2022 for shutting down its native 3G network. Here’s an excerpt from the page:

  • As of January 1, 2022 Sprint’s older 3G (CDMA) network will be retired
  • As of June 30, 2022 Sprint’s LTE network will be retired
  • As of July 1, 2022 T-Mobile’s older 3G UMTS network will be retired

We’ve also shared that we plan to retire T-Mobile’s older GSM 2G network as well, but no date has been set. We will update this page with any additional information in the future.

With T-Mobile’s latest announcement, all of the major US networks now have dates set for their 3G phase-outs. I won’t be shocked if one or more of those dates are pushed back.

Credit to Mike Dano of Light Reading who tweeted and posted about this topic.

Clock and hourglass

Verizon Sets New Deadline For 3G Retirement

Major networks are gradually phasing out 3G technology. Today, Verizon announced a new deadline for 3G retirement: December 31, 2022.1

Verizon has set and pushed back deadlines a few times:

Since 2016, we have stated publicly that we are actively decommissioning our 3G CDMA network. Initially, we announced we would close down our 3G network in 2019. However, we extended our shut off date – first to the end of 2020 and now to the end of 2022 – in order to care for our customers and give them every effort to minimize disruptions to their service as they move to newer and more advanced technologies.

I wonder if Verizon always knew it would push back the early deadlines. Even if the early deadlines were artificial, they may have helped transition subscribers off of 3G-only devices:

We worked for the past several years to help those who still have 3G devices transfer to devices capable of accessing the 4G LTE or 5G networks and continue to actively work with remaining 3G customers to migrate them to new devices and technology. As a result of those efforts, we can now report that more than 99% of our customers are using the enhanced features of 4G LTE or 5G, with less than 1% still accessing the 3G network.

In today’s announcement, Verizon stated that it would not push back the retirement deadline again. I’m unsure whether Verizon will keep a tiny portion of its 3G network active after 2022 to support business customers using legacy technology.

Grayscale phone

Let’s Retire The CDMA/GSM Distinction

Understanding cell phone compatibility across networks can be tough. A common understanding has emerged: some cell phones are CDMA devices while other phones are GSM devices. According to the common understanding, GSM phones work with GSM networks, and CDMA phones work with CDMA networks. The common understanding has never been entirely accurate. For many years, a CDMA phone sold by Sprint wouldn’t necessarily work on Verizon’s CDMA network. Similarly, a GSM phone sold by AT&T wouldn’t necessarily work with T-Mobile’s GSM network. Beyond that, plenty of phone models have supported both CDMA and GSM.

Although the common understanding of the CDMA/GSM dichotomy wasn’t ever entirely right, it was at least useful or directionally accurate for many years. Not anymore. Networks are phasing out 2G and 3G technologies. All of the major networks in the U.S. today are dominated by 4G LTE technology. LTE isn’t GSM or CDMA. LTE is its own thing.

MVNOs typically can’t explicitly name their host networks. As a result, MVNOs often use the CDMA and GSM acronyms to label their networks. An MVNO that offers service over AT&T and Verizon’s networks might refer to the AT&T service as “the GSM service” and the Verizon service “the CDMA service.”

Just this week, the carrier Tello launched service over T-Mobile’s network. Tello is calling the T-Mobile network the “New GSM Network.” While I understand Tello’s rationale, I worry Tello is continuing a trend that ultimately confuses consumers about cellular technologies and phone compatibility.

Verizon building

Verizon Further Pushes Back 3G Retirement

In an earlier post about network operators’ plans for phasing out 3G, I wrote:

It’s possible some network operators won’t stick to their current deadlines (plenty of early deadlines have already been pushed back).

At one point, Verizon was saying it would mostly phase out its 3G network by the end of 2019. Later, Verizon pushed the deadline to the end of 2020. Today, Mike Dano of Light Reading reported that the deadline has been pushed back once more.

As of this moment, it’s unclear when Verizon will push 3G-only devices off the network. Activations for 3G-only devices continue be prohibited.

Verizon Pushes Back Deadline For 3G Retirement

Verizon has updated a web page about the company’s plans for retiring its 3G network. Previously, the web page indicated that (a) Verizon planned to retire its 3G network by the end of 2019 and (b) Verizon would no longer activate devices that were CDMA-only or did not support HD Voice:

Verizon Wireless is retiring its CDMA (3G) network at the end of 2019. As a result, we are no longer allowing activation of CDMA-only devices, including CDMA-only basic phones and smartphones, or 4G LTE smartphones that do not support HD Voice service.

The updated web page suggests Verizon plans to keep its 3G network available to customers until the end of 2020. It also looks like some CDMA-only phones and phones without HD Voice may be eligible for activation until the end of the year:

Starting January 1, 2020, Verizon will no longer allow any CDMA (3G and 4G Non-HD Voice) ‘Like-for-Like’ device changes.

The page also indicates that bringing your own CDMA device to activate on an existing line will be prohibited starting 1/1/2020.

As networks’ change their deadlines, I plan to update my earlier blog post covering each major networks’ plans for phasing out 3G networks.

When Will 3G Be Phased Out?

Last updated: October 22, 2021

Major U.S. network operators are phasing out their 3G technologies. Below, I share my impressions about the status of the major networks’ 3G phase-outs. It’s possible some network operators won’t stick to their deadlines (plenty of early deadlines have already been pushed back).


Verizon has twice set and then pushed back deadlines for retiring its 3G network. The date is now set at December 31, 2022. Verizon committed to not push the deadline back any further.

Verizon has stopped activating 3G-only phones and phones that don’t support HD Voice. More details about Verizon’s plans and policies can be found in an entry on Verizon’s knowledgebase.


AT&T plans to retire its 3G network by February 2022.


T-Mobile has mostly stopped activating 3G-only phones. The company plans to shut down its 3G network as of July 1, 2022.

T-Mobile plans to shut down the legacy Sprint 3G/CDMA network it acquired by March 31, 2022.