Verizon stops activating CDMA 3G devices as network shutdown looms

As reported by Droid Life, Verizon confirmed that it will stop activating 3G CDMA devices as it prepares to discontinue service on that network by the end of 2019.

“For several years we’ve been publicly saying that our 3G CDMA network will remain available through the end of 2019. Virtually all traffic on our network is on our 4G LTE network,” Verizon said in a statement to Droid Life. “To facilitate a smooth transition to 4G LTE capable products and services, we are no longer allowing devices that are not 4G LTE capable to be activated on our network.”

Verizon’s decision to discontinue CDMA activations aligns with its previous statements, as well as its work in moving customers onto its 4G LTE network. Indeed, in 2012, a Verizon executive initially hinted that Verizon would shutter its 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021, but then in 2016 Verizon confirmed to FierceWireless that it would shut down its CDMA network by Dec. 31, 2019.

Verizon has been working to move its CDMA traffic onto its LTE network. On its website, the carrier states that fully 90% of its network traffic is now going over its LTE network. And earlier this year, Verizon said that it has fully deployed VoLTE over its network, so 100% of its LTE sites have that capability, equating to its entire footprint. VoLTE technology is a key element in Verizon’s transition from CDMA to LTE because it moves its customers’ voice calls from its CDMA network and onto its LTE network.

Verizon isn’t the only operator transitioning customers onto its LTE network and off its legacy network. For example, AT&T first announced in August 2012 that it would turn off its 2G network by 2017. And Sprint shut down its WiMAX network in 2016.

Network shutdowns, like Verizon’s plan for its CDMA network, are becoming relatively common in the wireless industry. As wireless network technologies evolve and become more spectrally efficient, operators essentially reuse their existing spectrum resources by deploying new equipment for customers in that spectrum. Such actions generally allow operators to provide faster service to more customers but also require customers to replace older phones and devices with newer ones that can support the new technologies and equipment.