AT&T to shut down its 2G network

August 6, 2012
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As every mobile geek will tell you, LTE is the ultimate buzzword in the US smartphone market today. The major smartphone manufacturers make sure that their flagship smartphones are properly equipped to handle the technology (hence the internal hardware changes made to the US versions of popular smartphones such as the HTC One X or the Samsung Galaxy S3). The two biggest carriers proudly present their 4G offerings, while the two other major carriers have announced that they will soon go down the LTE path as well, spending heaps of money in the process.

Just in case you need numbers to point out the obvious, a recent Wireless Intelligence study has shown that the US is “responsible” for almost half of all the LTE connections in the world. However, despite the numbers above, what makes the US the most advanced country in the world when it comes to cellular technology is the fact that it might also be the first country where carriers completely shut down their 2G networks. And AT&T might be the first to do exactly that!

According to a recently uncovered SEC filing, AT&T plans to completely shut down its 2G networks, both GSM voice and EDGE data, on January 1st 2017. AT&T, the second biggest carrier in the US by number of subscribers (second to Verizon Wireless) does not expect any major setbacks for the transition towards 3G and 4G, especially given that only 12 percent of its subscribers are currently using 2G-only phones. However, AT&T officials have also stated that they will make it a priority to make sure everyone gets a nudge towards the 3G/4G path well before the date mentioned above.

The most probable scenario is that by January 1st 2017, every US cellphone owner will have already naturally moved on to 3G or 4G. I’m willing to bet that there won’t be any carrier from anywhere else in the world (and here I’m strictly referring to other cellular-advanced countries such as the UK, South Korea and Japan) that will be in the position to shut down their 2G networks by that date. Obviously, this is not a race, but it sure does say a lot about the state of the US market.

What do you guys think? When will the other US carriers shut down their 2G network and who will be there first?

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