Updated: Verizon Wireless to sunset 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021

SAN DIEGO--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) plans to shutter its 2G and 3G CDMA networks by 2021, giving the carrier close to a decade to move its customers off those networks and onto its LTE network.

Aparna Khurjekar, Verizon's vice president of global strategy for M2M, confirmed the sunset date to FierceWireless during a meeting here on the sidelines for the CTIA MobileCon trade show. "We are giving a decade worth of pre-warning," she said.

However, after Khurjekar made her statement to FierceWireless, a Verizon spokeswoman elaborated on the issue.

"The date Aparna referenced while talking to you is a guideline that we are providing customers who have to plan, fund and transition large enterprise projects to the faster speed networks," said Verizon's Brenda Raney. "We haven't made a sunset decision like our competitors."

Raney also provided the following statement on the topic: "The Verizon Wireless 2G and 3G networks will be available until the foreseeable future. ... The Verizon Wireless 2G and 3G networks will be available as long as necessary to support customers who may have mission critical projects on those networks."

Despite Verizon's equivocation on the issue, the news comes as little surprise. Wireless carriers routinely phase out older networks and refarm their spectrum to support newer wireless network technologies. The last of the nation's major AMPS analog wireless networks disappeared in 2008. More recently, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) plans to turn off its iDEN network next year, and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has pledged to turn off its 2G GSM network by 2017.

Verizon's target of 2021 gives the carrier plenty of time to move its customers onto its LTE network, which it began building in 2010. Verizon plans to cover its entire 3G CDMA footprint with LTE by the end of next year. The carrier also plans to introduce Voice over LTE technology on its LTE network beginning next year. In Verizon's newest phones, voice calls are transmitted over its CDMA network while data transmissions travel over its LTE network, but Verizon is working to transmit both voice and data over its LTE network by using VoLTE technology.

Most of Verizon's customers sign up for two-year service contracts, which means that every two years Verizon will have the opportunity to sell its subscribers newer LTE devices and thereby move them off its 2G and 3G CDMA networks.

Indeed, Verizon's 2021 sunset date is far more important to its machine-to-machine customers than to its smartphone-toting customer base. M2M applications generally are designed to run for years on the same equipment. Khurjekar said Verizon would give its M2M customers "several years" of leeway past the 2021 sunset date if they needed it.

Related Articles:
AT&T will shutter its 2G network by 2017
Clearwire: Sprint's iDEN shutdown to affect 'small number' of co-located WiMAX sites
AT&T starts refarming 2G spectrum in New York City
AT&T looks to refarm 2G spectrum, urges customers to upgrade
Sprint to end iDEN service as soon as June 30, 2013

Article updated Oct. 11 to include statements from a Verizon spokeswoman.

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