Feeds

AT&T to mothball 2G network by 2017

Your iPhone needs more spectrum

Boost IT visibility and business value

In its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, US telecommunications giant AT&T has said it plans to sunset its 2G wireless network by January 1, 2017, with the goal of reclaiming spectrum for 3G/4G service.

"Due to substantial increases in the demand for wireless service in the United States, AT&T is facing significant spectrum and capacity constraints on its wireless network in certain markets," the filing, which was published on Friday, states.

Leading those "certain markets" are sure to be high-density urban areas with lots of smartphone users, such as New York and San Francisco, where AT&T customers have long complained about the carrier's spotty service. In 2009, an Apple store employee told one customer that he could expect his iPhone to drop 30 per cent of his calls on AT&T's network in New York.

Voice calls aren't what's gobbling up AT&T's wireless spectrum now, though. According to its SEC filing, AT&T's voice revenues were down a staggering $1.3bn for the first six months of 2012, a decrease of 10.1 per cent from the previous year.

That suggests the carrier's bandwidth problems can be attributed almost entirely to the increase in use of its wireless data services, owing to the exploding demand for smartphones in the US.

AT&T says that for the first time, the majority of its customers now own smartphones – 61.9 per cent, up from 49.9 per cent a year ago. Of those customers, more than a third own 4G-capable devices.

By comparison, only around 12 per cent of the carrier's monthly subscription customers (as opposed to prepaid customers) still use 2G handsets, making the spectrum AT&T has set aside for that service a growing liability.

AT&T has spent billions to build out its 3G/4G network, yet still has struggled to keep pace with the overall increase in network traffic. In its SEC filing it says that its network-related costs grew $209m in the first six months of 2012, due to both surging traffic and its ongoing network enhancement efforts.

Last year, AT&T had hoped to buy its way out of its worries by acquiring rival carrier T-Mobile USA, but when that proposed merger collapsed in December under the weight of federal scrutiny, the carrier was left with few options.

AT&T's filing does not say when it intends to begin phasing out its 2G network, only that it will be a multi-year process. Throughout that process, the carrier says it plans to "work proactively" with its 2G customers to move them to 3G and 4G devices. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.