Feeds

AT&T to mothball 2G network by 2017

Your iPhone needs more spectrum

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
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.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.