The Amazon Kindle e-reader has many different models with optional 3G cellular access. These will connect up to the closest cellphone tower that provides 3G data and allow users Kindles to connect up to the bookstore and also Wikipedia. Starting next year, this will be a thing of the past. Network telecommunication company’s all over the world are starting to shutdown their 3G networks and allocate the frequencies to 4G/LTE and 5G. The first networks in the United States will start to get switched off sometime this year, and all of the others next year.
Amazon first offered 3G internet access on the original Kindle that came out in 2017. It basically gave people the option to pay no monthly fees and roam wherever they wanted to buy ebooks from the Kindle Store. This model did not have WIFI compatibility, because it wasn’t really plentiful back then. A few generations later, Amazon made the call to offer two variants of the Kindle. One that had WIFI only and another that had 3G and WIFI. Going with the cellular version cost more, but lots of people thought it was worth it.
Every single Kindle model made before 2017 only has 3G internet access, which is going to really suck when all of these 3G networks are shutdown. The only Kindle models that will be immune will be the 10th generation Kindle Paperwhite 4 and Kindle Oasis 3, since they can access 4G/LTE, which will be around for a very longtime.
Carriers in the United States have all publicly announced when their networks will be retired and most have different dates. Verizon will shutter their 3G network at the end of 2020, T-Mobile is expected to sunset their 3G networks by the end of 2021, Sprint 3G networks will be shut down in December of 2022 and AT&T said that on February 22, 2022, their 3G networks are kaput. Bell, Rogers and Telus are the largest networks in Canada and their 3G support will continue until 2025.
The United Kingdom is one of Amazons most important markets, since most countries in Europe can access it. BT has announced that they are shutting down their 3G network next year and Vodaphone will flip the switch at the end of 2022. Three UK today also confirmed that, as part of on-going 4G upgrades they will also be converting 3G spectrum to 4G starting this year. In 2019 O2 introduced the network expansion strategy to investors. As part of the demonstration, the mobile operator also gave the time to turn off 3G. The provider plans to shut down the country’s 3G network as early as 2022.
Amazon 3G customers in Spain will continue to use the service for the for foreseeable future, their 3G network won’t be decommissioned until 2025. Vodafone has also publicly stated that they will wait until 2025 too. Meanwhile in Germany, Deutsche Telekom would be the first to turn off their 3G networks on June 31, 2021, whereas Telefónica Deutschland (O2) and Vodafone Germany said they will kill their networks in June 2022.
EE has already begun re-farming its 2.1GHz band but will continue support until 2022, while Telia Norway also plan to start phasing out their 3G network this year. Telenor Norway said their 3G network will be completely shutoff in 2021. Three and Vodafone (Europe-wide) have confirmed that they are aiming to switch off 3G networks by 2020, while Telenor Denmark has similar but unconfirmed plans. Others, such as Orange France will follow suit a little later in 2021 while BT and KPN in the Netherlands are shutting down in 2022. Sweden Telenor have started their 3G sunset last year, but promise rural areas will be supported until 2025. Swisscom said that they too will shutdown their 3G networks in 2022.
NTT DoCoMo in Japan said they will shutdown their 3G network in March 2026. KDDI plans on sunsetting it in March 2022 and Softbank in 2024. In Australia Telstra started dismantling 3G in 2019 and it won’t be completed until 2024. Vodafone turned off some of their network in 2019 and will continue on the 900 MHZ frequency for the foreseeable future. great sites that list the 3G sunset dates.Suffice to say, I have not mentioned every country and their shutdown dates, for the ones I missed, there are a bunch of
Quite recently, Amazon had a global coverage map, that listed all of their carrier partners for the 3G Kindles. They also listed about 100 countries, where people could connect to 3G and buy digital content. It seems in the past few months, Amazon has disabled this coverage map and all of the links point to 404 error pages. Many of the Kinde help files still have links to these coverage maps and no longer work. Examples include the Kindle Paperwhite. I only found this out, by doing research for my story. Was the list outdated or was it deliberately taken down after I write about my original story about the US 3G network being shutdown a couple of days ago?
I think Amazon never really considered the possibility that network operators all over the world will be shutting down their 3G networks and management appears to be asleep at the wheel. Very soon, millions upon millions of Kindle e-readers with 3G internet will no longer be able to connect through the Whispernet network. Luckily, almost every Kindle in circulation still has the ability to connect up to wireless internet access to buy audiobooks and ebooks. WIFi is utterly plentiful in North America and most other developed countries, but what about places like rural Vietnam, Indonesia or India? Is Amazon going to offer compensation to 3G users? So far, the company has been completely silent about this issue.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.