According to internal T-Mobile documents, the carrier plans to rapidly fast track plans to shut down its 2G and 3G voice networks, and affected customers could be forced to upgrade handsets or leave the network in a matter months. Most carriers have already shut down their legacy 2G networks, so the frequencies can be re-used for LTE and 5G, and 3G’s expiration date is rapidly approaching. AT&T started warning customers yesterday that phones without 4G voice calling would no longer work starting in 2022.

An internal T-Mobile document obtained by Android Police pictured below states that starting August 4th of this year — mere weeks from now — T-Mobile will require all new devices on the network to support Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Existing customers with a non-compatible phone won’t be immediately impacted, but starting in January 2021, all incompatible devices will no longer be able to use T-Mobile, possibly at all. Affected customers will receive a text informing them of the change “in the near future.”

The change will also affect T-Mobile’s MVNO, Metro, formerly known as MetroPCS. It’s not immediately clear if the move will apply to other MVNOs using T-Mobile’s network, like Mint Mobile, Ting, and Consumer Cellular. We have reason to believe Sprint devices will also be affected, but the impact for customers on that network is less clear — the carrier has always blocked devices not explicitly certified, and the certification process has included VoLTE support for years.

While T-Mobile doesn’t have a whitelist system for allowing VoLTE, like AT&T does, the fact still remains that many phones are incompatible with T-Mobile’s implementation (or the manufacturer simply never added support). The new requirement will mostly affect customers using select imported phones from companies like Xiaomi or Huawei, in addition to older phones.

Most unlocked phones sold in the United States have supported T-Mobile’s VoLTE profile for years — even devices as old as the HTC One M9 and LG G2 are compatible. Forcing people to purchase new phones during a global pandemic when unemployment in some areas of the United States is as high as 20% still isn’t a great look, but it remains to be seen if T-Mobile will offer discounts on new devices for affected customers.

T-Mobile provided the following statement, but declined to specifically address the document above or the timeline it offers in their initial reply.

We’re making great progress building a truly transformative nationwide 5G network. As part of that, we will be phasing out some older technologies over time to free up even more capacity for LTE and 5G. In preparation for that and to give customers the best experience, those activating new lines at T-Mobile will need a VoLTE capable device, which is all we’ve offered for years now and represents the overwhelming majority of devices on the network.

We asked T-Mobile to confirm the timeline, and will update this story again if we hear more.

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