The 3G Network Shutdown is a Problem for Millions of Vehicles on the Road from Acura to Cadillac to Tesla to Volvo

By Paul Riegler on 23 February 2022
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If telecommunications companies merely said they were sunsetting their 3G networks, many people might reply “How interesting “and then would have gone about their business, unaware of the consequences to come.

But what is actually happening is that older mobile networks, namely those using 3G technology – something commercially introduced in 2002 – is being switched off after millions of devices have grown to depend on it.

On Tuesday, AT&T Wireless switched off its 3G network, a move that will be followed by later in the year by Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.

Volvo S60

While the ramifications of this move may be most apparent to drivers whose cars will lose features and functionality listed in the vehicle’s specifications at purchase, such as traffic data for navigation systems, remote lock and unlock, and automatic crash notification, known as ACN, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Other automotive features that will sunset with 3G’s demise include smartphone app connectivity, emergency call services, concierge services, and Wi-Fi hotspots, non-connected car tech, including automated teller machines, home and office security systems, and electric-vehicle chargers will need to be updated – if they can be – or will no longer function.

Although the justification for the change sounds forward thinking, namely to recycle the part of the spectrum currently used for 3G for much faster 5G services, the changes that have already been set in motion may not come to light for some car owners until they try to access one of the aforementioned services, or until that person’s car is involved in an accident and the car fails to call for help.

Of course, you may have missed this news yesterday, even though more technically inclined online publications have written about it for months, because it was overshadowed by news that Tuesday, the day on which AT&T hit the off switch, was also the 22nd of February in the year 2022. A palindromic date if there ever was one. Written as 22.2.22 in the standard international date notation used seemingly everywhere except, notably, the United States, where today is 2/22/22, the arrival of 2222uesday was the stuff of which headlines are made.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the vehicles that are being impacted by the sunset of 3G networks.

The AT&T shutdown affects some 100 models from 12 brands, all built roughly in the timeframe 2012 through 2021.

Acura owners models will lose automatic crash notification in multiple models but the automaker is offering an upgrade that will allow most AcuraLink services to continue to function.  Seven models are affected including the ILX the 2016 and 2017 model years, the MDX from 2014 through 2017, the RDX from 2016 and 2017 as well as from 2019 to 2021, the TLX from 2015 to 2017, and the 2017 NDX.

Audi is offering a hardware upgrade for most of the ten models affected by the change.  Professional installation is required.  The list of vehicles includes the A4, A5, and Q5 from 2013 through 2018, the A6 and A7 from 2012 through 2015, the Q7 and A8 from 2012 through 2018, the A3 e-Tron from 2016 to 2018, the RS 5 for 2019, and the Q3 for 215 to 2018.

BMW hasn’t published a list of vehicles affected by the 3G sunset but said that some customers will be eligible for an upgrade and would be notified by first-class mail in such cases.

Ford cars mostly use the driver’s mobile phone for connectivity, as does Mazda.  However, vehicles impacted include the 2014-2017 C-Max Energi, the 2016-2018 Focus Electric, and the 2014-2020 Fusion Energi.

General Motors brands including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC with OnStar telematics modules will have required an over-the-air upgrade prior to February 22, the vehicle manufacturer said.  Upgrades started last October.

Honda also offered an upgrade that had to be completed by February 22.  The impacted vehicles include the 2018-2020 Accord and Odyssey, the 2019-2020 Insight, the 2019 to 2021 Passport, and the 2019-2022 Pilot.

Lincoln vehicles that are affected include the 2017 Continental, the 2015-2017 MKC, the 2016-2017 MKX, and the 2015-2017 MKZ and MKZ Hybrid.

Porsche said that its 2017-2019 911, 2014 918 Spyder, 2017-2021 718, 2015-2019 Cayenne, 2017-2018 Macan, and 2014-2018 Panamera are affected.

Nissan and Infiniti said that their Connect and InTouch platforms will stop working on February 22 and drivers will lose automatic crash notification and other features.  Affected vehicles are numerous including the 2016-2017 Altima, the 2017-2018 GT-R, 2011-2015 Leaf, 2016-2017 Maxima, 2018 Infiniti QX50, 2017-28 Q60, 2013-2018 Q70, and 2013-2017 JX60 and QX60, among others.

Stellantis, whose brands include Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram, said that the company will convert some vehicles’ telematics systems from 3G to 4G provided the owners subscribe to a data package with a monthly fee that starts at $10.

Subaru owners with an active Starlink Safety and Security subscription were eligible for a free hardware upgrade.  Otherwise, all telematics functionality will have been discontinued on non-upgraded vehicles.

Tesla said that Model S EVs built prior to June 2015 will lose multiple functions including over-the-air updates, remote unlock, cabin pre-conditioning, navigation, live traffic updates, music streaming, and Supercharger availability.  

Toyota and Lexus said that their Safety Connect and Enform Safety Connect systems will stop working on November 1, 2022 and those vehicles will permanently lose automatic crash notification and other telematics functionality.  No upgrade is available.  The list of impacted vehicles includes the 2011-2017 Sienna, 2012-2016 Prius, 2013-2018 Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, 2012-2014 RAV4 EV, 20-14-2018 Highlander, and all 2010-2017 Lexus models except for certain 2016 and 2017 CT200h vehicles.

Volkswagen’s CarNet telematics systems will stop working on February 22 and this affects virtually every car in the lineup.  However, the automaker said it will have a hardware-based upgrade available in the fall that will restore CarNet functionality.

Volvo is offering a hardware upgrade to most of its vehicles including the 2015-2018 S60, V60, and V60 Cross Country, 2015-2017 XC60, 2015-2016 XC70, and 2016 XC90, according to its website.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)