JAMAICANS with older smartphones and other devices which utilise 3G technology are being told they will have to upgrade if they want to continue roaming while in the USA.
This follows an announcement that all major mobile carriers across the USA will shut down their 3G networks to pave the way for their final transition to 4G LTE and 5G technologies.
AT&T terminated its 3G networks on February 22, 2022, T-Mobile will discontinue the service on July 1, 2022, and Verizon will end its 3G services on December 1, 2022.
In an advisory, Flow Jamaica told customers that as an interim measure, customers will still be able to utilise their 3G, 4G LTE or 5G devices to access both mobile data and voice roaming services on the T-Mobile network until that company terminates the service.
“We have already made the necessary adjustments to automatically register your mobile devices on the T-Mobile network upon your arrival in the United States. There may, however, be some instances where you will need to make the switch to the T-Mobile network manually,” the advisory informed.
Public relations and communications manager at Digicel Jamaica, Elon Parkinson told the Jamaica Observer “The overwhelming majority of our customers who roam already do so with a 4G LTE- or 5G-enabled device. As such, we do not anticipate that the gradual US migration from 3G will have any significant impact on their roaming experience. In addition, our adoption rate [of] almost 100 per cent for LTE SIMs makes it easier and more convenient for our customers to enjoy worry-free roaming.”
But while customers will be able to utilise roaming data services and Wi-Fi on 4G LTE or 5G devices in the USA, Flow admitted that they will not be able to make traditional voice calls while roaming until the VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) capability is enabled on Flow’s network. However, customers will still be able to use mobile apps, eg WhatsApp, to make calls on these networks.
Flow’s Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement Kayon Mitchell told the Jamaica Observer “Flow has been preparing for this transition and will complete the necessary upgrades to its network in 2022 to facilitate VoLTE.”
In the meantime, she noted “We frequently encourage our customers to upgrade their SIM card to an LTE-enabled one. We facilitate this upgrade free of cost for all existing customers.”
She said all technological support will be in place before the carriers complete their transition, noting that once customers ensure that their devices support 4G and later technologies and have an LTE-enabled SIM card, they will be able to roam seamlessly.
“As we continue to ensure readiness for the respective shutdowns, we continue to support our customers through this transition and have already issued our advisory outlining how this change will impact them and the necessary steps to take while roaming in the United States. Further updates will be issued once we have completed our own network upgrades,” Mitchell continued.
Similarly, Parkinson noted that Digicel also made preparations for the transition. “With the rolling shutdown of 3G networks now in effect in the United States, Digicel has taken steps to minimise the impact on our customers who want to stay connected…We recently made changes to the configuration of our roaming service in the USA to ensure that Digicel customers who activate a roaming plan prior to arriving at that destination, automatically connect to the T-Mobile network up to July 1, 2022. Where this does not happen, customers are advised to do a manual network search via the ‘Settings’ (Android) or ‘Cellular’ (iOS) tab on their smartphones. The same will apply in terms of the Verizon network up to December 1, 2022.”