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3G networks are shutting down — and that's bad news for your car. Here's why

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The planned shutdown of outdated 3G networks will affect the connected systems of dozens of vehicle models that hit the market anytime from 2010 to as recently as 2021, in some cases.
Dusan Petkovic | iStock | Getty Images

The 3G wireless network was once among the world's hottest innovations. Today, it feels old-fashioned with fifth-generation (5G), and even sixth-generation (6G), networks soon dominating the tech world.

In fact, 3G will soon be extinct — and that could mean bad news for your car.

Every major mobile carrier plans to shut down its 3G network this year, largely to free up mobile bandwidth for upcoming 5G network rollouts. First up is AT&T, which will shut down its 3G network on Feb. 22. If your smartphones and tablets were purchased within the past decade, they should have 4G capability, meaning they'll likely be unaffected.

However, your car might be a different story.

As multiple auto blogs have pointed out recently, the 3G shutdown will affect dozens of vehicle models released anytime between 2010 and 2021. Some cars will lose the ability to update your location and traffic data while navigating. Others will become unable to connect with your smartphone, voice assistants or emergency call services.

If you're driving certain models from Honda, Nissan or Volvo, you could be affected by AT&T's 3G shutdown. Verizon-aligned brands like Toyota and Lexus might have more time: Verizon says its 3G shutdown will happen "no later" than December 31. T-Mobile plans to shut down its Sprint and T-Mobile 3G networks between March and July.

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Some major auto companies have released information on which of their car models will be affected by the shutdown — and what steps owners can take, if any, to ensure that their cars don't lose certain connected features once the shutdown occurs.

Other carmakers, like Bentley and Stellantis, have acknowledged that some of their cars will be affected, but have declined to specify which models.

Here's a current list of publicly known affected models:

Acura: 

  • MDX models produced between 2014 and 2017
  • ILX (2016-2017)
  • RDX (2016-2017)
  • RDX (2019-2021)
  • RLX (2014-2016)
  • TLX (2015-2017)
  • NSX (2017)

Acura's website identifies seven different vehicle models with AcuraLink features running on 3G, including real-time traffic and maintenance reminders, emergency calls and enhanced roadside assistance services, as well as some personal concierge services. The Japanese luxury brand, which is owned by Honda, says drivers should contact a dealer to update their car's hardware if they want to continue using those services after the 3G networks shut down.

Audi: 

  • A3 e-Tron (2016-2018)
  • A4/Allroad (2013-2018)
  • A5 (2013-2018)
  • A6 (2012-2015)
  • A7 (2012-2015)
  • A8 (2012-2018)
  • RS 5 (2019)
  • Q3 (2015-2018)
  • Q5 (2013-2018)
  • Q7 (2012-2018)

For each of the 10 Audi models that will be affected by the 3G shutdown, Audi's website offers an overview of the connected features that will be lost, from online roadside assistance and stolen vehicle locator features to real-time fuel price and traffic light information.

The German luxury automaker advises owners to visit a dealer to have their 3G hardware deactivated. Otherwise, the shutdown will cause the vehicles to "display a warning message…and emit an audible chime to warn the driver the vehicle is not connected and emergency services are not available."

In December, Audi and auto software company Mojio also announced a hardware update that should allow owners of the affected models to connect to 4G networks.

BMW:

In April 2021, BMW published an FAQ page noting that all "vehicles factory equipped with 3G telematics devices or retrofitted 2G vehicles" will be completely disconnected from its ConnectedDrive and BMW Assist services. The page declined to identify which models are included, but according to The Drive, you're safe if your car is from 2019 or later.

BMW said it would contact affected vehicle owners to inform them if their car is eligible for a free upgrade. Not all cars will be eligible, according to the FAQ page.

General Motors:

Even relatively new General Motors cars might be affected: Last year, CM and its OnStar connected features platform announced that the 3G shutdown will affect "certain 2015 model year and newer GM vehicles."

In October, GM began offering wireless software updates to prepare its fleet for the shutdown, which OnStar says will occur in February. According to OnStar, the update occurs automatically for some car models, while others will receive a prompt on the dashboard to accept installation of the software update.

The updates will continue "until all affected vehicles have been successfully updated," OnStar's website says.

Honda:

  • Accord Touring (2018-2020)
  • Odyssey's Touring and Elite versions (2018-2020)
  • Insight Touring (2019-2020)
  • Passport's Touring and Elite versions (2019-2021)
  • Pilot's Touring, Elite, and Black Edition versions (2019-2022)

Honda's website identifies February 22, 2022 as the date that the 3G shutdown will affect a handful of its models. The company is offering a wireless software update that should reenable car features like remote locking, enhanced roadside assistance and Wi-Fi hotspots.

Lexus:

According to Lexus, all models produced by the Toyota-owned luxury brand between 2010 and 2017 will be affected by the 3G shutdown, along with GX models from 2018. The shutdown for those cars' connected services will come on October 31, 2022, at which point features like automatic collision notification and enhanced roadside assistance will stop working permanently.

So far, Toyota and Lexus haven't announced any plans to offer software or hardware upgrades.

Nissan:

  • Altima (2016-2017)
  • GT-R (2017-2018)
  • Maxima (2016-2017) 
  • 2017 Murano
  • 2017 Pathfinder
  • Rogue (2016-2017) 
  • Rogue Sport (2017-2018) 
  • Sentra (2016-2018)
  • TITAN (2016-2017) and 2017 TITAN XD
  • Certain 2011-2015 LEAF electric vehicles with upgraded 3G telematics units

In December, Nissan told Jalopnik that its affected vehicles will lose 3G connectivity with AT&T's shutdown in February, and that the company has contacted vehicle owners to inform them of the issue. If you own one of the above models and you haven't heard from Nissan yet, the company recommends calling 1-855-426-6628 to verify if your car is affected.

Nissan has not yet announced any plans to offer software or hardware upgrades to affected owners.

Porsche:

  • 911 (2017-2019)
  • 918 Spyder (2014)
  • 718 (2017-2021)
  • Cayenne (2015-2019)
  • Macan (2017-2018)
  • Panamera (2014-2018)

The Porsche vehicles listed above will lose 3G connectivity on February 22, cutting off various remote, safety and security features, according to the company's website. Porsche adds that some, but not all, vehicles will be eligible for a technology upgrade to keep those connected features working.

The company's website says it will notify car owners by email if their vehicles are eligible for an update.

Subaru: 

  • Crosstrek (2016-2019)
  • Forester (2016-2018)
  • Legacy (2016-2018)
  • Impreza (2016-2018)
  • WRX (2017-2018)
  • WRX STI (2017-2018)
  • Outback (2016-2018)

On its website, Japanese automaker Subaru says its seven affected models will lose 3G connectivity in February, affecting features like "SOS emergency assistance" and the ability to remotely lock and unlock your car. However, a complimentary software update is available for subscribers to Subaru's Starlink Safety Plus or Security Plus connected services.

Tesla:

In July, Tesla announced that its Model S luxury sedans built before June 2015 will lose network connectivity in February 2022, unless owners pay $200 at a Tesla dealer to install an upgraded, LTE-capable modem.

Without the upgrade, the affected Model S sedans will lose a variety of connected features, including wireless software updates, live traffic data, music streaming, and Tesla's Summon feature — which allows owners to remotely call their car in a parking lot to come pick them up nearby without a driver.

Toyota: 

  • 4Runner (2010-2019)
  • Avalon (2013-2018)
  • Camry (2013-2017)
  • Highlander (2014-2018)
  • Land Cruiser (2011-2017)
  • Mirai (2016-2017)
  • Prius (2010-2016)
  • Prius Plug-in (2012-2015)
  • Prius V (2012-2016)
  • RAV4 EV (2012-2014)
  • Sienna (2011-2017)

Toyota's website says 3G connectivity for its affected models will end on November 1. Toyota tells CNBC Make It that there are currently no software or hardware upgrades available for customers that would extend their 3G functionality beyond October 31.

Volkswagen: 

  • Atlas (2018-2019)
  • Arteon (2018-2019)
  • Beetle (2014-2019)
  • CC (2014-2018)
  • Eos (2014-2017)
  • Multiple Golf editions (2014-2019)
  • Jetta (2014-2019)
  • Passat (2014-2019)
  • Tiguan (2014-2019)

Volkswagen's connected features are available to drivers on a subscription basis, so if you aren't a paid subscriber, you won't lose anything. However, if you drive one of the above models and you have an active Car-Net subscription, you'll lose features in February like emergency and roadside call assistance, vehicle health reports and the ability to check fuel status remotely.

VW's website says "additional information will be available in the coming months" for customers who want to continue using the Car-Net platform after the shutdown, and that drivers should "please check back closer" to the February shutdown date.

Volvo:

  • S60 (2015.5-2018
  • V60 (2015.5-2018)
  • V60 Cross Country (2015.5-2018)
  • XC60 (2015.5-2017)
  • XC70 (2015.5-2016)
  • XC90 (2016)

Volvo's mobile partner is AT&T, which means the affected vehicles will lose 3G connectivity in February. The shutdown will cut off features such as real-time traffic updates and in-car access to the Volvo On Call app that offers emergency assistance and remote tracking.

The Swedish company's website says it'll offer an upgrade to at least some owners of the affected vehicles, who are directed to fill out an online form for more information. 

CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that no hardware or software upgrades are available to owners of the affected Toyota or Lexus vehicles.

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