Planning for the 3G Network Shutdown:

Cellular Payment Card Terminals

Right alongside permed hair and denim-on-denim, the 1980s brought the first generation - or 1G - of cellular networks with voice-only, analog service. 2G, launched in 1991, allowed digital cellular phones, but the May 2001 release of 3G provided more data capabilities, video calling, and mobile internet.  And the December, 2009, global launch of 4G brought with it the connection speeds that allow us to video conference, stream movies, and binge-watch Netflix at home.

The fifth and newest generation of cellular network technology (called 5G, obviously) expands the capacity and allows more devices to use the network than ever before at much faster speeds.

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With the ever expanding usage of 5G, we have begun seeing major network providers stating that they will be phasing out 3G networks soon. Verizon has announced they will stop providing 3G service at the end of 2020 and AT&T has indicated they will phase out 3G networks by February 2022. Most smartphones are already using the 4G network, so this change most likely won’t affect the average person. 

However, other devices, like payment card terminals, have not required the move from 3G until now and many devices being sold today still operate solely on the 3G network. Once 3G service is stopped and the companies begin decommissioning their towers and infrastructure, talk and data services won’t work for any wireless devices that don’t support at least 4G – meaning that your cellular payment card terminals may be unable to get a signal. Merchants using cellular payment card terminals will need to upgrade to at least 4G devices in order to have the necessary support and coverage for payment card acceptance.

Other devices that may be affected include:

  • Remote monitoring devices in vending machines, kiosks, etc.

  • Cellular routers (i.e. cradlepoints) providing Internet access to kiosks or remote facilities

  • Cellular modems providing connectivity to remote camera systems, security alarms, etc.

  • Internet failover devices providing cellular backup for hard-wired connections
     

If your merchants have deployed 3G devices on campus, you will want to work with your acquiring bank or other device vendors to determine what replacement equipment is available and what options you have for upgrading to newer devices.  It may also be a good time to review all PTS devices and verify expiration dates as well (see related article here).  If you have any questions about your merchants’ devices, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your dedicated CampusGuard Team to discuss equipment, connectivity, and compliant alternatives.

Additional guidance from our Security Advisor team below:

[Coudeyras]: Just as software becomes outdated, hardware does as well. It becomes increasingly difficult to support outdated hardware over time. Not only does it require additional personnel to support, but the physical/digital requirements of supporting 3G add up, causing increased costs and more vulnerabilities. As a result, 3G is being decommissioned nearly 20 years later. This is a great example of why it is important to stay on top of the lifecycle of hardware/software utilized by your organization. To stay ahead of threats, make sure to review business processes periodically to ensure they are not utilizing outdated, non-supported systems.