Will 4G phones work in 2020

3G networks will be switched off - watch out for older cell phones and contracts

The 5G frequencies have been auctioned in Germany and the providers can convert to the faster transmission standard. But at the same time, this brings the end of old transmission routes with it. Since the large providers are already adapting their antennas in the country for 5G, they will switch off 3G (UMTS) coverage at the appropriate locations when the opportunity arises. Only the supply via the older and slower 2G (GSM, GPRS and Edge) is retained, as otherwise cell phones would no longer work without internet functionality. The G stands for "Generation" and describes the generations of mobile radio technology.

While LTE tariffs (4G) used to be very expensive and only available in the premium tariffs of the mobile network providers, many providers have now decided to also release LTE for the cheaper tariffs. One reason for this was not that you wanted to do something good for consumers (as is often claimed in marketing). It was simply the case that the increasing use of smartphones overloaded the UMTS network. For this reason, the LTE network was released for many existing and prepaid customers in order to distribute network load more evenly between the two networks.

4G use is also included in the tariffs of discounters, e.g. ALDITALK, LIDL Connect, Ja! Mobil, pennymobil and NettoKOM.

How to review and adjust your contract

Hence the advice to all consumers: check for term contractswhether you have a pure UMTS tariff (without LTE use). If so, then you should definitely terminate it preventively and try to get a new contract with LTE at the end of the contract.

If necessary, it makes sense to take a look at prepaid tariffs on this occasion. Many consumers do not know that prepaid use is also possible with a smartphone and still have the "prepaid" of 20 years ago - that is, with expensive tariffs and scratch cards - in mind.

Have you a Prepaid contract, for which LTE has not yet been planned, the change can be made quickly, usually within a month.

The first providers are already offering expensive tariffs for 5G. For consumers, however, such a contract is usually not worthwhile. There are still relatively few 5G antennas and a corresponding modern smartphone is also necessary.

What you should check for your smartphone and when you might need a new one

Consumers who have a very old smartphone without the possibility of 4G reception will probably need a new device in order to still get fast mobile internet even after the changeover of the network operators. We generally recommend purchasing the smartphone in the open market and not in a bundle with a fixed-term contract. Because with a two-year contract term, you often pay more than if you choose a tariff without a device and convert the one-time costs for the smartphone to the term. Individual 5G-capable smartphones are on the market, but they are still very expensive.

This is how you can tell from the display on your smartphone which connection you use to surf the Internet while on the move:

Generation mobile communicationsdefaultDisplay iOSDisplay AndroidMax. speed
2G (GSM)GPRS○ / GPRSG53.6 kbit / s
2G (GSM)EDGEE.E.256 kbit / s
3G (UMTS)UMTS3G3G384 kbit / s
3G (UMTS)HSPA3GH7.2 Mbit / s
3G (UMTS)HSPA +3GH +42 Mbit / s
4G (LTE)LTELTE4G / LTE300 Mbit / s
4G (LTE)LTE-Advanced4GLTE + / 4G1 Gbit / s
5G5G5G5G20 Gbit / s

(Note: With many smartphones, the display of the cellular speed is only displayed if the device has no WiFi connection, i.e. if either the WiFi is deactivated on the smartphone or you are outside the range of the home WiFi)

By the way, it is not uncommon for a village to have 4G cell phone coverage today that is better than UMTS coverage. This has to do with the terms and conditions of 4G. The mobile phone providers first had to ensure almost nationwide coverage in the countryside before LTE could be expanded in the city. In this respect, too, switching from a contract / device with 3G to a new one with 4G soon can be worthwhile for you.

Failures are possible when exchanging the transmitter systems

When the antennas on cell phone masts are replaced, the mast is completely disconnected from the network. This is done for reasons of occupational safety. Reception (including telephony via smartphone) is usually not possible during the renovation work in the area.

This content was created by the consumer advice centers in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia for the network of consumer advice centers in Germany.