May 19, 2022
 min read

What the 3G Sunset Really Means and How it Affects Farmers

Starting from 2021, 3G networks will be gradually phased out with more technologically advanced 5G networks. Let's take a look at the available solutions.

I think it’s safe to say that we are all a little confused by what exactly people are talking about when they mention the upcoming “3G Sunset.” At times, it’s felt like a mix between Y2K and an episode of The Walking Dead. It’s not the end of the world, but there’s a few things that every farmer should know and ways we can all prepare.

Let’s start with what it actually means.

The term “3G” is really just a common abbreviation for the third-generation cellular network. As our phones and technology around them evolve, so must the networks that support them. To send more information, more reliably, from more customers at faster speeds, these networks need to change as well.

4G (or the fourth-generation cellular network) started rolling out in 2008 across North America and has supported a vast number of changes to the way we talk, text, tweet, and more. It’s allowed video calls and social networks and the like, and to some extent, has defined the way a lot of us live and document our daily lives. To continue this growth, the 5G network is now beginning to roll out in the most densely populated parts of the country.

Like an old school radio, these networks transmit on different frequency ranges, and these ranges have a limit to their bandwidth. For more room to be created, we are at the point now where we need to get rid of older technologies using that space, and that is what is happening with the 3G networks. 

The term “3G Sunset” is simply a fancy way of saying that the 3G network will be no longer available.

The FCC (Federal Communication Commission – a government organization that oversees our communications networks) originally scheduled for this to be completed by the end of 2019. However, the major cellular providers (AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile) banded together and asked for an extension. The FCC granted them an extension to the end of 2022 but warned them this would be their only chance. Well as you would guess, the major cell providers have asked for another extension and this time the FCC, very firmly, said no.

The major cell providers have complied, and have announced the following timeline:

AT&T Officially Announcing the Shutdown of the 3G Network


  • AT&T announced that it will finish shutting down its 3G network by February 2022. 
  • Verizon announced that it will finish shutting down its 3G network by December 31, 2022. 
  • T-Mobile announced that it will finish shutting down Sprint’s 3G CDMA network by March 31, 2022 and Sprint’s 4G LTE network by June 30, 2022. It also announced it will shut down T-Mobile’s 3G UMTS network by July 1, 2022, but has not yet announced a shutdown date for its 2G network.
So who cares right? I’ve got a smartphone that works just fine. This doesn’t affect me. Here’s why you should care…

Although your brand-new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy most likely won’t be affected, there are many devices that we all use in our daily lives that will be greatly affected. 

True, your GPS in your truck might not connect anymore, but more importantly, your old school barn alarm (i.e.: Sensaphone and AgriAlert) won’t be able to accept your touch-tone acknowledgement of alarm calls. That’s if they are even able to call out to you anymore at all! These technologies, along with others, will be affected when the 3G network is no longer available. By now you’re probably saying to yourself, “What can I do to prepare? I can’t afford a brandnew alarm!”

The good news is you have options…

Option 1 – “The work around” If you’re one of the few people who actually like your Sensaphone or Agri-Alert and want to stay loyal to your brand, there’s a few devices you can add to their product to increase their effectiveness. One of the most popular, is to purchase a dedicated cell phone that stays on site for each Agri-Alert or Sensaphone. You will then need to purchase a product like the XLink Bluetooth Gateway and a battery backup for the XLink. This works by using the Bluetooth capable phone to connect to the XLink, which is plugged into a battery backup. A phone cord will connect the XLink to the port on the Agri-Alert or Sensaphone. This set up will be required for each Agri-Alert or Sensaphone.

Average Cell Phone Cost 2021 $556.91
Average Cell Plan Cost per Month in 2021 $70
Average Cell Phone Setup Fee $110
X-Link Bluetooth Gateway $87 on Amazon
~1 Hour Backup Battery $65 on Amazon
25 ft. Phone Cable $5 on Amazon
Total Cost ~$825 up front and $70 per
month per barn/house

The 'Workaround' path total score: 3.1

Option 2 – “The future” BarnTalk, next generation, wireless barn alarm. After seeing the price of option one, maybe you’re wondering if it is indeed time to look at a new system altogether. One that’s not only newer, but also better. BarnTalk works with a cellular Gateway and a growing suite of wireless sensors. It’s powered by a smart phone app (we already talked about how your new iPhone and Samsung Galaxy won’t be affected by the 3G sunset) and you can not only set up alarm thresholds and your call tree in the app, but you can also see real-time conditions straight on your phone from anywhere, even when there isn’t a problem! BarnTools, the company that makes BarnTalk, is also offering a major trade in discount on all old alarm systems.

No cell phone or land line needed $0
Monthly connectivity and monitoring $49
Barntalk cellular gateway Included
24-hour battery backup Inlcuded
Wireless sensors No wiring or cables required
Total cost Starting at ~$700 per barn/house
Setup time 30-45 minutes per barn/house
Life expectancy of solution >10 years

Barntool setup total score: 4.8

Option 3 – “Hog tied” The last option is finding yourself tangled in wires, and we just have to ask, why? We all know wires don’t last long in these environments unless they are run through conduit or in the ground, and the time spent with all of that is much better spent where you are supposed to be in the first place… with the animals! So sure, you can wait until Fiber optic lines are installed in your area or pay Comcast or AT&T to come out and install internet from the nearest road or tap in point to each building, but then you still have to worry about heavy upfront costs and high monthly fees.

The results… BarnTalk is the clear winner when it comes to preparing your farm for the 3G sunset. With a total score of 4.8, it easily beats out “The work around” at 3.1 and “hog tied” at 3.3 based on reliability, ease of setup, affordability, and effectiveness. 

Average Internet Setup Fee $110
Average Internet Cost per Month $64
Average Installation and Wiring Costs $1500-$2000
No battery backup Inlcuded
Total Cost ~$1,680 upfront and
$64/montly per barn/house
Setup Time 4-6 hours
Life expectancy of solution >2-4 years*

*Average life expectancy of a modern high-speed modem

Hog-tied Setup total score: 3.3

The results…

BarnTalk is the clear winner when it comes to preparing your farm for the 3G sunset. With a total score of 4.8, it easily beats out “The work around” at 3.1 and “hog tied” at 3.3 based on reliability, ease of setup, affordability, and effectiveness.

Contact our team today to explore your options.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “The best thing we’ve ever put in our facility!” – James H. | Product Review: BarnTalk Gateway

Michael Hansen, CEO, has worked in all phases of production, from boar stud to sows to finishing, to learn t

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