Verizon is giving a bit of a breather to customers who are still using its 3G CDMA network. Instead of turning the network off at the end of this year, the operator confirmed it will instead turn the network off at the end of 2020.
Verizon spokesperson Howie Waterman confirmed the news to Light Reading, explaining that the action is intended to give impacted customers "an extra year to decide what they want to do."
Verizon initially hinted in 2012 that it would eventually discontinue 3G service, and in 2016 the carrier put a firm date on that plan: Dec. 31, 2019. The carrier in July 2018 confirmed it stopped activating 3G phones. Verizon reiterated its 3G shutdown plans to Light Reading just five months ago. Waterman said that the vast majority of Verizon's traffic now travels over its 4G LTE network, but he said the operator wants to give customers with older devices more time to upgrade to LTE. It also provides more time for Verizon's roaming partners to prepare their own operations in support of the move.
Verizon also said that starting at the beginning of 2020, it will no longer allow customers with 3G phones to transfer service from one account to another account, to activate an existing 3G device on an existing line, to swap one 3G CDMA device for another CDMA device, or to roam outside the US. Those kinds of actions are clearly geared to encourage customers with old 3G CDMA phones to buy new 4G LTE ones.
A big part of Verizon's 3G CDMA shutdown involves Voice over LTE technology. VoLTE pushes voice calling off of Verizon's 3G network and onto its LTE network. T-Mobile and AT&T are pursuing similar strategies.
Verizon of course isn't the only wireless network operator to shutter one aging network and replace it with a faster and more efficient network. AT&T for example discontinued service on its 2G wireless network Jan. 1, 2017. According to the operator's filings with the SEC around that time, it counted fully 4 million customers on its 2G network, the bulk of which were IoT devices. Sprint too recently shuttered its WiMAX network.
Verizon's 3G CDMA shutdown paves the way for the operator to refarm the spectrum devoted to that network to newer 4G or 5G network technology.