Verizon to shut down 2G CDMA 1X network by the end of 2019

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) confirmed to FierceWireless that it is currently planning to shut down its CDMA 1X network by Dec. 31, 2019. However, the carrier said it would work with its current CDMA 1X customers and would consider operating its CDMA 1X network into 2020 if those customers need more time to move onto Verizon's LTE network.

"We will not abandon a single customer," Verizon spokesman Chuck Hamby told FierceWireless. "We will work with each of the customers one-on-one."

"Should there be stragglers, we will continue to work with them," Hamby added.

Verizon's 2G CDMA 1X network is used by some of the carrier's mobile phone customers for voice calling, but Verizon is working to transition its voice calling services onto its LTE network via Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology. The carrier has said that mobile users in general replace their phones every 2.5 years, so most of its CDMA 1X users ought to have VoLTE-capable phones by 2019.

Verizon's CDMA 1X network is also used by some slow-speed machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, such as remote water meters. Hamby said Verizon is currently working with those M2M customers to move them onto Verizon's LTE network.

Verizon said in April that fully 92 percent of its wireless traffic traveled over its LTE network. Verizon is also refarming its 3G, CDMA EV-DO spectrum for its LTE network.

Verizon's Dec. 31, 2019, shutdown date for its CDMA 1X network appears to be a relatively recent decision by the carrier. Last year, when questioned how long Verizon would operate its CDMA network, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said: "We have a lot of internet of things still riding on that network, it's an extremely efficient network, when you get to just small bursts of data through the network. So, I think that network is going to be here for a long time," according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks.

Verizon's CDMA 1X network shutdown date is also earlier than what a top executive told FierceWireless in 2012. Aparna Khurjekar, who was at the time Verizon's vice president of global strategy for M2M, told FierceWireless in 2012 that the carrier planned to shutter its 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021. However, after Khurjekar made her statement to FierceWireless, a Verizon spokeswoman said that what Aparna said was a "guideline that we are providing customers who have to plan, fund and transition large enterprise projects to the faster speed networks. We haven't made a sunset decision like our competitors."

Verizon is shutting down its CDMA 1X network in order to refarm its spectrum for its LTE network; LTE network technology is far more spectrally efficient than CDMA 1X.

Verizon isn't the only carrier to sunset a network. AT&T in 2012 announced it would shut down its 2G network by 2017 as it refarms that spectrum and deploys more advanced services. "We believe it's important for us to be transparent about our plans for the 2G network. Our spectrum reallocation efforts have already begun and will continue between now and approximately January 1, 2017. We may turn down some markets entirely before 2017," AT&T said in a document to its customers.

Other wireless network shutdowns in recent years include AT&T's shutdown of Leap Wireless' Cricket CDMA network, T-Mobile's shutdown of MetroPCS' legacy CDMA network, and Sprint's shutdown of its WiMAX network.

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Updated: Verizon Wireless to sunset 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021
AT&T will shutter its 2G network by 2017

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