Op-Ed: The 3Gpocalypse is coming — Is your car ready?

By Kane DiMasso-Scott

Just this week I heard about something that I’m surprised has not received more media coverage on the national level, as it’s extremely important to us as consumers. Beginning in February and continuing through the end of the year, 3G networks are being shut down by the major players in the cellular network industry‚ AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. This poses no problem to our use of cell phones, however, our automobiles are about to get a whole lot “dumber.”

Nearly every major brand in the auto industry has, from 2010 to as late as 2021, used these 3G networks in certain models for many of their included and on-board features in their cars. With the shutdown of 3G networks, features like GPS navigation, automatic crash detection, SOS emergency features, remote locking and unlocking, and the ability to connect with your phones (wirelessly), among others, will no longer be functional. Some companies have already announced their plans to address the issue, while others still have not said much. 

Certain brands will be offering free over-the-air updates for your vehicle to ensure that the features continue to work such as Subaru, Honda, and GM, while others look to require a hardware upgrade at a dealership to re-enable your features or disable warning messages that may arise from the lack of connectivity.

The shutdown of 3G networks is not something that comes as a surprise, as it was always an inevitability following 4G and now 5G rollouts. However, what’s embarrassing and downright frustrating is the fact that some automakers continued to produce vehicles using this same outdated network, fully aware of the ramifications down the line. I commend the aforementioned companies that are pushing out updates for their consumers, but others who have yet to announce what their plans are is maddening. 

More often the not we, as the consumer, will spend tens of thousands of dollars on a vehicle, expecting the features included when we purchased the vehicle to always be available. Now, with the shutdown of 3G networks, it seems like a fair number of vehicles will lose those features permanently, or will require additional purchases to re-enable or modernize these vehicles for 4G.

So not only will some consumers lose access to features they thought they’d have throughout their vehicle’s lifetime, but others may also have to pay additional fees to get those features back. This shouldn’t be our responsibility. It’s on the automakers and dealers to make it right. They continued to produce vehicles on an outdated network knowing it would be obsolete, but now, the piper needs to be paid and some of them believe that responsibility falls on you. 

You can visit https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/16/3g-networks-shutting-down-in-2022-could-affect-your-cars-gps.html to see the current list of publicly known affected models. AT&T will shut down their 3G network next month, which certain Honda, Nissan and Volvo models rely on for their features. If this is your first-time hearing about it as well, I suggest you call your dealer, figure out what, if anything, could be done if you have an affected model, and hope for the best. 

Good luck.

Kane DiMasso-Scott is an art director  for the Independent Newspaper Group. The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not necessarily represent the views of the Independent Newspaper Group.

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