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AT&T to kill 2G network by 2017

With 3G already being popular and 4G gaining momentum slowly, AT&T has publicized that it is planning to close its 2G operations by 2017. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today, AT&T said that it will it will shutting down its second generation network so that it can concentrate on upgrading infrastructure to better technologies for the future.

According to AT&T, by January 1, 2017 it will stop all its 2G operation and the spectrum used by 2G services will be reallocated for 3G and 4G use. Currently, about 12 percent of its customers under contract are still using handsets that doesn’t support 3G technology and hence the telecom giant is requesting all those customers “proactively” to upgrade their devices in the coming years. As a part of this move, AT&T has stopped selling 2G handsets to its contract or prepaid customers in order to fuel the transition. Changeover from GSM and EDGE networks will be done on market-by-market basis.

“We expect to fully discontinue service on our 2G networks by approximately January 1, 2017. Throughout this multi-year upgrade process, we will work proactively with our customers to manage the process of moving to 3G and 4G devices, which will help minimize customer churn. As of June 30, 2012, approximately 12 percent of our postpaid customers were using 2G handsets. We do not expect this transition to have a material impact on our operating results, but will continue to evaluate the financial impact of transitioning customers from 2G devices to 3G or 4G devices,” AT&T said.

Currently, more than one-third of AT&T postpaid smartphone subscribers are using 4G devices on HSPA+ or LTE network while rest of the users are connected to 3G networks. It should be noted that 3G network coverage area isn’t that great and sometimes users have to fall back on older GSM and EDGE 2G networks when 3G networks are congested or while in remote areas, however, with superior infrastructure in place, things should turn out to be better by 2017.

Why this move? AT&T says it is facing “significant spectrum and capacity constraints” in several markets which in turn affects wireless voice and data services. They’re finding it hard to maintain the quality and the situation cannot be helped unless the Federal Communications Commission can “make new or existing spectrum available to the wireless industry to meet the needs of our subscribers”. AT&T recently said that it is planning buy NextWave Wireless along with its spectrum licenses. The spectrum allocated to Next Wave Wireless are adjacent to the ones that is used by satellite radio services and isn’t licensed for mobile Internet usage, however, the telecom giant has an agreement with Sirius XM which would enable to lessen concerns about interference and in turn allow AT&T’s 4G LTE network to operate on those frequency ranges.

The network upgrade should benefit everyone, except those who want to stick to their medieval handsets, however, with so many revolutionary technologies being adopted daily, we wouldn’t be surprised to see those phones ending up in museum. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know using the comment form below.

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