AT&T switches off 2G network to free up spectrum

AT&T has switched off its 2G network in order to free up spectrum for 4G and other services.

The US operator, which first announced plans to discontinue its second generation wireless network four years ago, switched off services on 1 January 2017.

The decision is part of AT&T’s “5G Evolution” plan, which includes further deployments of LTE technology over the next few years, with trials of 5G expected to advance in 2017.

Chief strategy officer John Donovan said AT&T’s 3G and 4G network now covers 99% of US citizens, while data usage has grown more than 250,000% within the last decade.

“By shutting down our 2G network, this frees up more spectrum for future network technologies, including 5G. In the next few months, we plan to repurpose that spectrum for LTE.” Donovan said.

“Newer, faster technologies will improve the wireless experience. IoT customers will be able to better serve their customers with improved applications and solutions because of the higher speeds of the upgraded network. Mobility customers will enjoy faster speeds to share photos and watch video.

“The retirement of our 2G network – like our earlier retirement of the analog wireless network – is part of our 5G Evolution, which includes continued deployment of our 4G LTE and other technologies in the years to come.”

The closure of 2G services will cause a number of quirks on AT&T’s network. For example, the originally iPhone, which launched a decade ago and is seen as the first modern smartphone, will no longer work on AT&T’s network, as it was a 2G only device.

AT&T launched its 3G network in 2007, while it began rolling out 4G services in 2011. It said all customers had been informed of its plans to shut down its 2G network.

Rivals Verizon and T-Mobile have also announced plans to shut down their own 2G networks in order to free up more spectrum.