Posted in: Mobile Services

AT&T will discontinue its 2G service in 2017, you probably won’t notice

You may have heard already – AT&T is planning on shutting down its 2G network, GSM voice, GPRS/EDGE data and all. It won’t happen for a long, long time so no need to rush to the store if you don’t have a 3G-enabled smartphone – the shut down is planned for January 1, 2017.

What does that mean for regular users? Not too much for sure. AT&T estimates that only 12% of their postpaid customers still use 2G phones. Virtually all new phones (except a few sub $50 SIM-free featurephones) support 3G, but it won’t matter – how likely are you to keep the phone you have now for 4-5 more years? I wonder if it’s even necessary to wait that long.

AT&T has the luxury of controlling what phones its customers buy – sure, you can bring an unlocked phone to its network, but most US users prefer to buy a phone from the carrier at a subsidized price anyway. And AT&T has stopped selling 2G-only phones to both pre-paid users and users on contract. Baring anyone holding on to their 90′s Nokia and thinking it will last forever, people will have changed their phones long before 2017 comes.

The company will still help users make transition – “We’ll work closely with all customers to manage the transition. Customers who upgrade their devices will have a better overall experience,” an AT&T spokesperson wrote to Mashable.

For those wondering why AT&T needs to shut down the 2G network, the answer is that they need to free up room for new networks. Spectrum (simply put, how much room there is for radio waves) is a limited and expensive resource and 2G networks don’t make the most efficient use of it – they are slower and support fewer users than 3G and 4G networks. With a growing user base and demand for better speeds, putting a more efficient network where 2G once was is a necessary move.

So, only two questions remain – what will AT&T do for areas where 2G is the only connectivity you get (or rather how quickly they’ll upgrade those cells to 3G) and is this transition away from 2G indicative of what the industry as a whole will do (it seems all but inevitable)?

Source | Via

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