AT&T said it officially shut down its 2G network on Jan. 1 and will refarm the spectrum to support newer technologies.
“Today, our 3G and 4G LTE networks cover 99% of Americans,” John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations, wrote in an AT&T blog post. “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.”
AT&T first announced in August of 2012 that it would turn off its 2G network by 2017. Donovan said two weeks ago that the carrier had enacted a “soft lock” on roughly half of its network, and that it would activate the lock on 100% of its network over the next 4 to 6 weeks. A month after that, the company plans to start decommissioning the network and taking down the equipment it uses to run the network.
The soft lock is a reversible process enabling AT&T to quickly reactivate the network on a market-by-market basis if necessary, ensuring that the carrier doesn’t deactivate service to any critical services like medical equipment. Donovan said previously that the company has worked to ensure that regulators and customers were alerted about its plans to turn off its 2G network, and the soft lock is a way to respond to customers who may not have received the warning—though he added that no customers have yet complained that they were unaware of the carrier’s plans to turn off its 2G services.
AT&T had been migrating customers off its 2G network for more than a year in advance of the shutdown, and in September it said those moves were increasing its network efficiency and boosting the bottom line. But T-Mobile began targeting AT&T’s 2G customers last fall, offering free SIM cards and service to users of IoT services on the 2G network.
And AT&T’s transition away from 2G has not been entirely painless. The carrier said it lost 315,000 reseller subscribers in the third quarter of 2016, “largely due to disconnects from the company’s 2G network.” It may shed some light on how many more carriers it lost during the fourth quarter when it posts its next earnings report next week.