AT&T announces end of 2G service by 2017

Existing 2G customers will be offered alternate services as AT&T begins massive spectrum shift and refarming.

AT&T will end its GSM voice service and other 2G services no later than January 1, 2017, an AT&T spokesperson told FierceMobileIT. That along with the acquisition of companies such as NextWave Wireless, which hold unused spectrum, point to a major move on AT&T's part to greatly expand the spectrum available for LTE, and to AT&T's other high-speed wireless choice, HSPA+.

"To help support the explosion of mobile Internet usage and give our customers a great experience, we plan to fully discontinue service on our 2G wireless networks by approximately January 1, 2017. This will enable us to free up spectrum for added capacity on our mobile Internet network," an AT&T (NYSE: T) spokesperson said in a prepared statement. "Well in advance of this change, we will reach out to our relatively small percentage of 2G customers and offer them options to meet their needs."

The AT&T spokesperson declined to discuss with FierceMobileIT exactly what measures the company was planning to take for its existing customers, how many customers there are, or what type of communications are involved. In addition to voice, 2G communications typically involve M2M, or machine to machine, and telemetry applications.

The AT&T action follows an announcement by Sprint (NYSE: S) that it was shutting down its 2G iDEN service by the end of June, 2013. Like AT&T, Sprint needs the spectrum space for its LTE build-out. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless has nearly completed its roll out of LTE service, but it still maintains its 2G CDMA service. Likewise, T-Mobile has told FierceMobileIT that the company plans to retain its 2G service, although it is allocating less of its spectrum to that service. "We have no plans to leave GSM," T-Mobile Senior Vice President Dave Mayo said. Mayo noted that the company has a large number of business users who have devices that need 2G service, and that it has a large number of international roaming customers who need GSM. Mayo also noted that T-Mobile still sells some GSM-only phones.

AT&T did say that 2G service would be shut down on a market-by-market basis and that the company would work with customers currently using 2G services to help migrate them to other services.

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