AT&T's scary 'Update Needed' email left out a pretty important detail

An email from AT&T to customers suggested it was pushing 3G users off of its network, but the phase-out is still a year and a half away.

Rae Hodge Former senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
Rae Hodge
2 min read

Don't worry. The phase-out of AT&T's 3G is still over a year away. 

Angela Lang/CNET

An email from AT&T arrived in customers' inboxes this week, suggesting that 3G users would need to upgrade their devices or risk being dropped from its network. But that change, part of AT&T's long-planned 3G phase-out, is still a year and a half away. 

The email, originally reported by Android Police, warns users that the company will soon be upgrading its network, and that their device "is not compatible with the new network and you will need to replace it to continue receiving service."

The email doesn't appear to mention the information listed on AT&T's related support page: The 3G phase-out isn't slated to happen until 2022. 

"One change we're making is phasing out our 3G network by February 2022. Once we do, 3G devices and 4G wireless devices that don't support HD Voice will no longer work on our network," the page says. 

AT&T said the email was "one of many" that will be sent to inform customers about its 3G network shutdown planned for early 2022 -- but acknowledged the email should have mentioned 2022.

"It should have included the date that certain devices would no longer be supported," AT&T said in an emailed statement. "We apologize for any confusion this may have caused and will be more clear in future updates."

The email appears to have caused some confusion. As noted by Android Police, some AT&T subscribers turned to the carrier's forums to question whether it was a scam and others suggested it was sent to some device owners in error. Some people also criticized the email, calling the message tone deaf for encouraging customers to upgrade phones amid the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic

To see if your phone will work on the new network, check for your phone's model on AT&T's official list