T-Mobile extends Sprint 3G CDMA shutdown to May 31: reports

It looks as though T-Mobile is extending the life of the old Sprint CDMA network until May 31.

Update: T-Mobile responded back to our requests for comment with the following statement:

“We are proceeding as planned with the orderly shutdown of our CDMA network beginning on March 31. As part of our shutdown process, we are migrating customers in some areas over the following 60 days to ensure they are supported and not left without connectivity, and the network will be completely turned off by no later than May 31.”

So, earlier reports were accurate in that the final cut-off is May 31. However, the transition begins as earlier stated on March 31, so it would appear that some will see the ramifications of the extension and others will not.

"This is a normal network transition process. We look forward to sunsetting this outdated technology so every customer will have access to the best connectivity and best experience in wireless,” the T-Mobile statement concluded.

Prior to today, March 31 was the most recent date given for the Sprint CDMA shutdown, which was just the latest deadline. In October 2020, T-Mobile informed Dish Network that it would be shutting down the CDMA network on January 1, 2022.

Dish balked at that because a significant number of its Boost Mobile subscribers rely on that CDMA network, which T-Mobile inherited from Sprint. Plus, Dish was under the impression that it had more time – like over the course of three years – to transition those subscribers onto another network.

Ultimately, T-Mobile extended the shutdown of Sprint’s 3G CDMA network to March 31, 2022. Now that appears to be getting pushed back – sort of.

Yesterday, the T-Mo Report reported on this latest delay, tracing it to a post by a Reddit user, who spotted a note on SoftBank’s website. The publication also cited an email sent to some Sprint customers where T-Mobile confirmed the new date of May 31, 2022, for the CDMA sunset.

The shutdown is due to occur in waves over two months, beginning with business customers on March 31, according to The T-Mo report. So customers can’t exactly count on their phones working through to the end of May.

“Sprint will be shutting down gradually its CDMA network towards Thursday, May 31, 2022,” according to SoftBank’s website. “In the shut down area, you may not be able to make a voice call or it may be temporarily out of service. In order to respond to this shutdown and to ensure the stable use of the America Flat-rate option, customers using the option will need to update their USIM card.”

AT&T’s 3G shutdown problems

All of the three big nationwide carriers – T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T – are shutting down their 3G networks, primarily so they can use that spectrum and resources for 5G.

Verizon plans to sunset its 3G network on December 31, 2022, but AT&T already shut its down; that occurred in February. T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network, which is separate from the one it acquired from Sprint, is due to shut down by July 1 of this year.

Snafus associated with AT&T’s 3G network shutdown started weeks ago, when BestMVNO relayed issues from a reader who uses service from the AT&T MVNO Red Pocket Mobile. Among the problems was the inability to do group texts and phone calls.

Wave7 Research principal Jeff Moore was aware of these and other reports when he recently talked with Fierce. In particular for AT&T MVNOS, “it’s pretty clear that they’re having a lot of difficulties,” he said.

Based on his discussions with MVNOs, one of the problems is identifying the exact issues. “It’s not any one thing. Sometimes it’s this, sometimes it’s that. Some people lose data access. Others lose voice access. It seems like it’s a lot of different things,” he said.

Asked about the reported problems, a spokesperson at AT&T provided the following statement: “We strive to offer flexibility to customers of our MVNO partners, allowing them to bring their own devices. Following the end of 3G services, some have been unable to use LTE/4G devices purchased through a third party or otherwise configured in a way that prevents them from connecting properly.”

The statement from AT&T added that they’re “working with these MVNOs to make sure their customers have devices and services compatible for our next-generation technology and services.”

Note: This story was updated with a statement from T-Mobile.