AT&T is shutting down its 3G network, and this will kill off connected features for millions of cars, including traffic navigation, emergency calls and voice assist.
The telecom giant began the shutdown of its third generation network on February 22, freeing up frequencies for its faster, and more reliable, 5G infrastructure.
A side effect of this shut down will be ‘smart features’ in millions of cars, mostly released before 2017, no longer able to function, as they rely on the 3G network.
Services including in-traffic navigation, location data, in-car wifi, emergency callouts and even remote lock and unlock functions, will cease to work as 3G switches off.
The shutdown will affect 100 models from 12 manufacturers including Acura, Audi, Ford, GM, Honda, Subaru, Tesla, Porsche, Volvo, Bentley, BMW and Volkswagen.
It isn’t just cars that will suffer from the ‘sunsetting’ of 3G, as ATM machines, security systems and some EV chargers also make use of the older generation cellular signal.
Drivers who use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for navigation and other functionality aren’t affected, regardless of model, as that mirrors the user’s phone and network.
The telecom giant began the shutdown of its third generation network on February 22, freeing up frequencies for its faster, and more reliable, 5G infrastructure
AT&T is shutting down its 3G network, and this will kill off connected features for millions of cars, including traffic navigation, emergency calls and voice assist. Older models, including the Volkswagen Beetle from 2016, are most likely to be affected
The prospect of a 3G shutdown has been on the cards since before the rollout of 5G began, and follows the closure of 2G infrastructure in 2017.
The switch over from 2G to 3G wasn’t without its problems, despite being announced years in advance – just like the switchoff of 3G this year.
When 2G shut down in 2017, about 70 per cent of San Francisco’s buses and trains suddenly stopped appearing on real time tracking maps within the city.
‘The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFTMA) then faced weeks of mounting public pressure while it scrambled to upgrade its legacy monitoring devices,’ Sierra Wireless, the firm responsible for tracking, explained at the time.
3G is a two-decade old cellular standard, that is being retired by AT&T, and eventually other providers, in order to free up space for a wider range of 5G bands.
‘Since February of 2019, we have worked with automotive manufacturers to help them transition their connected cars to newer technology before 3G services end February 22,’ an AT&T spokesperson said.
‘Customers have received, and will receive additional, communications as we work with them on this transition, including direct mail, bill messages, emails and text messages.’
Despite three years of warnings the shutdown was coming, some vehicle models released in 2019, 2020, 2021 and even 2022 still shipped with a 3G modem.
A side effect of this shut down will be ‘smart features’ in millions of cars, mostly released before 2017, no longer able to function, as they rely on the 3G network
Honda confirmed it would fix the issue with an over the air update, and had been working on the problem since October
MANUFACTURERS AFFECTED BY THE 3G SHUTDOWN
Acura: 2014 to 2017 MDX, 2015 to 2017 TLX, 2016 and 2017 ILX, 2014 to 2016 RLX, 2016 and 2017 RDX, and 2017 NSX.
Audi: 2016 to 2018 A3 E-Tron; 2013 to 2018 A4, A5, and Q5; 2014 to 2018 Allroad; 2012 to 2015 A6 and A7; 2012 to 2018 A8; 2015 to 2018 Q3; 2012 to 2018 Q7; and 2019 RS5.
BMW: All BMW vehicles that connect to a 3G network will lose connectivity in February 2022. No specific list available from the manufacturer.
GM (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC): Vehicles with OnStar on a 3G network will require a software update by February 2022.
Honda: Accord (Touring trim, 2018 to 2020), Odyssey (Touring and Elite trims, 2018 to 2020), Insight (Touring trim, 2019 and 2020), Passport (Touring and Elite trims, 2019 to 2021), and Pilot (Touring, Slite, and Black Edition trims, 2019 to 2022).
Hyundai and Genesis: 2016 to 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT; 2017 and 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport; 2015 to 2017 Hyundai Azera; 2017 Hyundai Elantra; 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric; 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid; 2017 and 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe; 2015, 2016, and 2018 Hyundai Sonata; 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid; 2016 and 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid; 2016 Hyundai Tucson; 2016 and 2017 Hyundai Veloster; 2014 to 2016 Hyundai Genesis; 2017 to 2019 Genesis G80; and 2017 Genesis G90.
Jaguar and Land Rover: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace and XE, the 2016 and 2017 Jaguar XF and XJ, the 2015 to 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport, the 2017 Land Rover Discovery, and the 2016 and 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Sport, and Range Rover may be affected by the shutdown.
Nissan and Infiniti: 2016 and 2017 Nissan Altima, 2017 and 2018 Nissan GT-R, some 2011 to 2015 Nissan Leaf, 2016 and 2017 Nissan Maxima, 2017 Nissan Murano, 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, 2016 and 2017 Nissan Rogue, 2017 and 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport, 2016 to 2018 Nissan Sentra, 2016 and 2017 Nissan Titan, 2017 Nissan Titan XD, 2014 to 2018 Infiniti Q50, 2017 and 2018 Infiniti Q60, 2013 to 2018 Infiniti Q70, 2017 and 2019 Infiniti QX30, 2013 to 2017 Infiniti JX/QX60, and 2013 to 2017 Infiniti QX56/QX80.
Porsche: 2017 to 2019 911, 2014 918 Spyder, 2017 to 2021 718, 2015 to 2019 Cayenne, 2015 to 2018 Macan, and 2014 to 2018 Panamera.
Subaru: 2016 to 2018 Forester 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, and 2.0XT Touring; 2016 to 2018 Legacy 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, and 3.6R Limited; 2017 and 2018 Legacy 2.5i Sport; 2016 to 2018 Outback 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, and 3.6R Limited; 2017 and 2018 Outback 2.5i Sport; 2016 to 2018 Impreza 2.0i Limited; 2016 Impreza 2.0i Sport Premium with Eyesight and 2.0i Sport Limited; 2017 and 2018 Impreza 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Sport; 2016 and 2017 Crosstrek 2.0i Premium with Eyesight and 2.0i Limited; 2018 Crosstrek 2.0i Premium; 2017 WRX 2.0T Premium with Harman Kardon; and 2017 and 2018 WRX 2.0T Limited and 2.5T STI.
Toyota and Lexus: 2011 to 2017 Toyota Sienna, 2012 to 2016 Toyota Prius V, 2013 to 2018 Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, 2012 to 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV, 2012 to 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in, 2013 to 2017 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, 2016 and 2017 Toyota Mirai, 2010 to 2016 Toyota Prius, 2014 to 2018 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid, 2011 to 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, and 2010 to 2019 Toyota 4Runner, plus all 2010 to 2017 Lexus models except certain 2016 and 2017 CT200h hybrids, and the 2018 Lexus GX.
Volvo: 2015.5 to 2018 S60, V60, and V60 Cross Country; 2015.5 to 2017 XC60; 2015.5 and 2016 XC70, and 2016 XC90,
Volkswagen: 2018 and 2019 Atlas and Arteon; 2014 to 2019 Beetle, Jetta, Golf, Golf Sportwagen, Golf R, eGolf, GTI, Passat, and Tiguan; 2014 to 2018 CC; and 2014 to 2017 Eos.
SOURCE: Consumer Reports
Some manufacturers have already taken steps to rectify the issue. Last year Tesla offered drivers of older Model S vehicles, the only ones affected, a $200 ‘LTE Upgrade’ that replaced the older 3G modem with a more modern connection.
Most manufacturers have told customers it is possible to upgrade to a 4G, or LTE modem, replacing the 3G technology built into their vehicle – but there are delays.
Due to the global supply chain shortages, some drivers could be waiting until the end of the year before they can access smart features in their cars again.
Audi has told customers smart functions, including wifi hotspots and weather data, will no longer be available in older vehicles, and Ford told customers to upgrade the modem to 4G at their own expense if they wish to continue using smart features.
Some models will have it worse than others, as the level of impact will depend on just how many smart features relied on an internet connection.
All the models, assuming no other mechanical issues, will stiil operate as a car – starting and driving as expected. The issues are with ‘added extras’.
There will also be a potential security risk, as some cars, without being able to access Wifi or have a physical USB port, won’t be able to install updates.
This is a ‘slow motion disaster’, according to William Wallace, manager of safety policy for Consumer Reports, speaking to CNBC.
‘We’re talking about millions of vehicles that will lose features that were promised to owners, and that no longer will be delivered,’ he said.
‘In some cases, those features are safety features, things that can help them from dying or getting seriously injured after a crash.’
Some manufacturers have been planning for the switchoff better than others, according to Autotrader executive editor, Brian Moody, who said: ‘It’s hit and miss. Not every automaker’s solution is the sam.’
‘Shutting down the 3G network to prioritize newer technologies is positive in the long run,’ says Alex Knizek, an expert from Consumer Reports, which has compiled a list of all vehicles affected by the sunsetting.
‘But it is disappointing that some automakers have failed to offer a solution to owners of 3G-connected vehicles, leaving them unable to take advantage of proven and valuable safety features, as well as other beneficial connectivity functions.’
GM and Honda have been planning for it since 2016, and have functionality built into the modems that can allow them to switch to other networks with an update.
They both required the update to be installed before February 22, 2022 to avoid a dealer visit, but a trip to the dealer can solve the problem if you missed the update.
‘Although these circumstances were created by factors beyond our control, we sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause,’ Toyota said in a statement, confirming it was just going to be letting those features expire in older vehicles.
Ford says its vehicles will be relatively unimpacted by the sunsetting of 3G, other than an older version of an app no longer being available.
While AT&T are the first to sunset 3G on a major scale, they won’t be the last, as all cellular providers begin to make the switch to 5G, using 4G as a backup.
Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have 3G networks, and they have all indicated they plan to shut them down by the end of this year.
The switch to 4G modems will solve the current problem – whether as a physical update, in a new vehicle or through an over the air update – but it is just pushing the problem down the road. Just like 2G was switched off in 2017, and 3G this year, it is likely that within the next five years 4G will also go the same way.
‘AT&T supports various innovative technologies supporting network communications for a variety of connected devices, including many connected cars on the road today,’ Robert Boyanovsky, vice president of the Internet of Things and Mobility operation at AT&T Business told Light Reading in 2020.
‘We have more than 40.5 million connected cars on the AT&T network, as of the third quarter of 2020, and have relationships with 31 top global brands.
Ford says most of its vehicles had already started to switch the 4G, and the only impact will be an older version of its app no longer being available to download
Subaru drivers with an active Starlink Safety and Security subscription will get a free hardware upgrade, moving from 3G to 4G modem – other drivers will have to pay, or manage without the smart features
‘Most of these vehicles are connected through 4G LTE, primarily supporting a wide variety of automotive telematics services. We will continue to work with our impacted customers as we navigate through this 3G network transition.’
Experts predict that the switchoff will have a minimal impact on the AT&T connected car business because most vehicles have already switched to the 4G network.
However, some smaller networks are hoping to cash in on the shutdown, by providing a cheaper option than replacing the in-built modem.
‘Mojio offers a clear solution to the 3G shutdown problem, and more broadly across the entire fleet of unconnected models,’ Kyle MacDonald, VP of marketing and business development at Mojio told Light Reading.
It powers the SyncUP DRIVE offering from T-mobile, which plugs into the OBD-II port on a car, and provides connected services via a wifi hotspot for $10 a month.
‘That’s an attractive proposition to a customer that’s just been informed that the connected car features will soon be shut down,’ said MacDonald.
|Bentley||Hasn’t confirmed affected vehicles||Pre-2020|
|BMW||All vehicles with 3G modems||Pre-2020|
|–||MKZ and MKZ Hybrid||2015-2017|
|GM||Multiple brands including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet||2015-2019|
|Honda||Accord (Touring trim)||2018-2020|
|–||Odyssey (Touring and Elite trims)||2018-2020|
|–||Insight (Touring trim)||2019-2020|
|–||Passport (Touring and Elite trims)||2019-2021|
|–||Pilot (Touring, Slite, and Black Edition trims)||2019-2022|
|–||Santa Fe Sport||2017-2018|
|–||Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid||2017-2018|
|–||Sonata Plug-in Hybrid||2016-2017|
|–||Infiniti QX30||2017 & 2019|
|–||Avalon and Avalon Hybrid||2013-2018|
|–||Camry and Camry Hybrid||2013-2017|
|–||Highlander and Highlander Hybrid||2014-2018|
|Tesla||Model S||Pre-June 2015|
|–||Golf/Golf R/eGolf/Golf Sportwagen/Golf GTI||2014-2019|
|–||V60 Cross Country||2015-2018|
|DATA GATHERED BY CONSUMER REPORTS|
WHAT IS 3G? THIRD GENERATION CELLULAR STANDARD
3G is the third generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, a decade old standard.
It was the first to focus on rising data usage, replacing 2G, 2.5G, GPRS and 2.75G EDGE networks.
It was superseded by 4G, and later on 5G – with networks shutting down around the world to free space for 5G.
AT&T became the largest US network to turn off its 3G on February 22, 2022.
A new generation of cellular standards comes out roughly every decade since the first 1G systems were introduced in 1979, and 6G is now in the works.
Each generation is characterized by new frequency bands, higher data rates and non–backward-compatible transmission technology.
The first commercial 3G networks were introduced in mid-2001.
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