AT&T Turning Off 2G Service by January 2017

Posted by at 8:18 pm on August 3, 2012

AT&T will be shutting down its 2G bands by the start of 2017, according to a mention in a recent SEC filing picked up by the Wall Street Journal. The carrier gave New Year’s Day, 2017 as a deadline to discontinue its 2G service to customers, which allows nearly four and a half years for the carrier to transition its 2G customer base to 3G and “4G” devices.

The filing claims that as of June 30, 2012, 12 percent of contracted customers were using 2G-only handsets, mostly “feature” phones or older smartphone models. The transition from GSM and EDGE service will take place on a market-by-market basis, the efforts of which were seen by customers in New York, who were warned that their 2G-only devices might lose coverage partly or entirely in “certain areas” of New York City over time. An offer of a free upgrade to a 3G-capable device was made alongside the warning.

Removing the 2G service would open the 1,900MHz band, and later the 850MHz band, up to repurposing. Although no firm plans have been made as of yet, it is likely that the carrier would start using the 1,900MHz band for LTE-based “4G” service, since 3G already runs in that area of spectrum. 4G-spectrum is enough of an issue that AT&T placed a $600 million bid for NextWave Wireless.

T-Mobile is the only other US carrier that will face a similar gradual move, and has already committed to avoiding sales of 2G-only handsets. CDMA networks will be forced to jump between 2G and “4G,” due to 3G being used for data alone.

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