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Thread: 2G/3G networks shutdown and international roaming

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    2G/3G networks shutdown and international roaming

    AT&T shuts down its 2G Network in April 2022. Considering that not all cellular operators support VoLTE roaming (I would say, only minority of operators supports VoLTE roaming), 99% of non-AT&T branded phones do not support AT&T VoLTE (except iPhones, may be some US-oriented Moto and Samsungs), international travelers will be forced to use T-Mobile for roaming.

    Now, 2G of T-Mobile is not usable in many places and, according to T-Mobile, it shuts down 2G in Dec. 2020 .

    It means, the only way to roam (for voce and text) in US is the phone with 3G Band 4 (on T-Mobile).

    But at least 50% of the phones outside US (and, most likely, much more than 50%) do not support UMTS Band 4.

    For example, international (non-US) version of Samsung Galaxy A20 SM-A205F:
    https://www.sammobile.com/samsung/ga...pecs/#SM-A205F

    3G UMTS
    B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850), B8(900)
    Galaxy A50 SM-A505F (also non-US version):

    3G UMTS
    B1 (2100), B2 (1900), B5 (850), B8 (900)
    These phones are new phones from 2019. I am not even talking about older phones and noname Chinese phones.

    So, how international visitors are going to roam within USA?

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    It was my understanding that At&t shut down 2G more than a few years ago and that 3G (aka GSM) is being replaced in 2022 and replaced with 4G (aka VOLTE) and the developing 5G which work together. Verizon is stating that they are shutting down 3G by the end of this year and most, if not all, carriers are no longer activating 3G devices.

    Most international providers have used 4G (VOLTE) for several years already and 2G/3G is not used. The foreign network technologies are usually a few or several years ahead of the US networks. Has been this way for at least 15-20 years.

    One more thing to remember that the 4G (VOLTE) phones are backward compatible with 3G (GSM) networks. The limitation is if your phone doesn't have the supported the foreign network frequencies they won't work. Most foreign travelers are more aware of this than most Americans.
    Don't make me turn this car around.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by veriztd View Post
    It was my understanding that At&t shut down 2G more than a few years ago and that 3G (aka GSM) is being replaced in 2022 and replaced with 4G (aka VOLTE) and the developing 5G which work together. Verizon is stating that they are shutting down 3G by the end of this year and most, if not all, carriers are no longer activating 3G devices.

    Most international providers have used 4G (VOLTE) for several years already and 2G/3G is not used. The foreign network technologies are usually a few or several years ahead of the US networks. Has been this way for at least 15-20 years.

    One more thing to remember that the 4G (VOLTE) phones are backward compatible with 3G (GSM) networks. The limitation is if your phone doesn't have the supported the foreign network frequencies they won't work. Most foreign travelers are more aware of this than most Americans.
    I think the point is what carriers will visitors to the US roam on? Will ATT accept those phones on VoLTE even though they don't support many phones sold in the US with VoLTE now.

    Or will Verizon be a roaming partner?
    iPhone 11 is my current primary phone. I have older model iPhones and Moto phones available on other lines. Trying to simplify to 2 prepaid lines, one on the Verizon network and a limited minute plan on ATT to improve coverage area. 12 month plans to help me fight the urge to switch. The good old days of contracts where you had to pay a hefty ETF to leave

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink1 View Post
    I think the point is what carriers will visitors to the US roam on? Will ATT accept those phones on VoLTE even though they don't support many phones sold in the US with VoLTE now.

    Or will Verizon be a roaming partner?
    That is up to the foreign carrier. They establish carrier roaming agreements with the US providers. The US carriers don't allow foreign cellular users use whichever US carrier they want to unless a roaming agreement already exists. Works both ways when US cellular users travel on the foreign networks. The foreign networks let their users know which US carriers will support their foreign devices.

    That's the abridged answer, hope it is helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink1 View Post
    I think the point is what carriers will visitors to the US roam on? Will ATT accept those phones on VoLTE even though they don't support many phones sold in the US with VoLTE now.

    Or will Verizon be a roaming partner?
    Exactly! As of now, except iPhones, no international phone (non-US versions) can use AT&T VoLTE. AT&T is not going to retroactively provision VoLTE on old phones of visitors with their sim cards in roaming mode and many foreign operators will not be able to implement VoLTE roaming on their side. In addition to this, majority of non-US phones will not support AT&T VoLTE on April 2022 (sunset of AT&T 3G) unless AT&T is going to push VoLTE settings to all phones registered on its network without current whitelisting.

    The situation is better with T-Mobile, but T-Mobile coverage is not the best and, most important, majority of low- and mid-range non-US phones do not support UMTS Band 4 (used by T-Mobile).

    So, what will happen on April 2022? It looks like AT&T is going to drop 50% of it's roaming revenue.

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    Just for fun I looked at the roaming coverage of Three (UK) in the US. I recognized the ATT map.

    Of course, it is possible that ATT may just automatically whitelist roaming SIMs for VoLTE so compatible phones can connect. By then, that will be 2 more years for phones that don't support VoLTE to be replaced by newer models.

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    This is pretty major in that many/most low- and mid-range phones sold in Europe and Asia lack the LTE bands used in the US. Whereas before those travelers to the US could've roamed on AT&T's 3G and had reasonable data speeds, I guess now they'll have to buy prepaid burner phones.

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    I don't know for certain if the option is still available, but I remember when Sprint and Verizon CDMA customers traveled to foreign countries that utilized GSM networks only, there was a company that the customers could rent a compatible phone for use if their phone was incompatible. It is possible that the foreign carriers may offer that type of service for their customers traveling to the US with incompatible phones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by veriztd View Post
    I don't know for certain if the option is still available, but I remember when Sprint and Verizon CDMA customers traveled to foreign countries that utilized GSM networks only, there was a company that the customers could rent a compatible phone for use if their phone was incompatible. It is possible that the foreign carriers may offer that type of service for their customers traveling to the US with incompatible phones.
    Or, and here's an entirely crazy thought- the carriers might also know about this and have a plan to resolve the problem in the 27 months remaining!

    Honestly, the whole VoLTE thing has p*ssed me off since LTE was launched. There are either standards or there aren't. If my phone has VoLTE capability and works on carrier X's LTE band, it should just work. I'm sick of tired of "only of the carrier has tested it" or "only if it's running that carrier's firmware" or "only if it has a half eaten fruit silkscreened on the back".



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    I totally agree, but it’s a mighty delicious fruit.

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    Do I sense some anger issues? I only offered a possible solution to the OP's question
    Quote Originally Posted by elecconnec View Post
    Or, and here's an entirely crazy thought- the carriers might also know about this and have a plan to resolve the problem in the 27 months remaining!

    Honestly, the whole VoLTE thing has p*ssed me off since LTE was launched. There are either standards or there aren't. If my phone has VoLTE capability and works on carrier X's LTE band, it should just work. I'm sick of tired of "only of the carrier has tested it" or "only if it's running that carrier's firmware" or "only if it has a half eaten fruit silkscreened on the back".



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    Quote Originally Posted by veriztd View Post
    Do I sense some anger issues? I only offered a possible solution to the OP's question


    Sent from my SM-G965U using HoFo mobile app
    Certainly, (but not directed at you or the OP of course, but carriers that still can't get their s**t together with LTE years after launch.)

    I realize the irony of me suggesting the carriers will fix this, then launching into a tirade of how they've f**ked it all up so far.

    My tirade aside, I assume carriers will want to protect the lucrative revenue stream from international roaming and make sure the necessary procedures are in place if/when they retire older networks.

    I wish Google would just integrate Google Voice into Android so tightly we could just buy data plans for our phones and use a Google Voice number for talk and text in the device's native phone and text apps.




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    Google could very easily do that. It would move in the step of carriers being the data pipe, which they will fight to the death to prevent.

    Technical savvy people make it work, but there are downsides and workarounds that prevent it from being mainstream.

    Anther reason Google might be reluctant to do it is 911. If something got bunged with dialing 911 in the hundreds (or thousands) of Android devices out there with tons of android OS variants, Google might get blamed for something going wrong. I'm not sure who is responsible for assuring 911 works in the end, Google, the device manufacturer or carrier. Likely NOT Google. This may be one of the excuses the carriers use to restrict features such as VoLTE. That is all well and good until you look outside the USA and find that it is not an issue.
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    elecconnec, I was having a little fun with your post.

    I do agree that the US carriers should utilize a unified frequency for LTE/VOLTE but they want to prevent users from using their branded phones on another network and/or require new users to buy a new phone from them in my opinion. I do think it is a stupid game, but they have been doing this for as long as I remember.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmarkson View Post
    Google could very easily do that. It would move in the step of carriers being the data pipe, which they will fight to the death to prevent.

    Technical savvy people make it work, but there are downsides and workarounds that prevent it from being mainstream.

    Anther reason Google might be reluctant to do it is 911. If something got bunged with dialing 911 in the hundreds (or thousands) of Android devices out there with tons of android OS variants, Google might get blamed for something going wrong. I'm not sure who is responsible for assuring 911 works in the end, Google, the device manufacturer or carrier. Likely NOT Google. This may be one of the excuses the carriers use to restrict features such as VoLTE. That is all well and good until you look outside the USA and find that it is not an issue.
    I suspect Google's reluctance is more about not biting the hand that feeds them. As you point out, the carriers do not want to be dumb pipes, and carriers buy more Android phones than we consumers do directly. If Android introduces a seriously anti-carrier feature, it'd be a reason for carriers to push iPhones over Android.

    But I can still dream, can't I?

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