Aug 13 2012

AT&T Says Goodbye to Its 2G Network

As mobile broadband moves on to 4G LTE, AT&T moves to retire its older network.

Once upon a time, back in the early to mid 2000s, our smartphones used to max out at 100kbps. Even the original iPhone, which was released in 2007, was hobbled by slow data speeds in its early days when it was tied to AT&T’s 2G EDGE network.

Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal cited this as one of his complaints of the original iPhone in his review in 2007.

“[The iPhone] uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks,” Mossberg wrote.

But AT&T rolled out its 3G network more broadly and, the following year, the iPhone got a 3G makeover.

At this point, depending on who you ask, the iPhone 4S is now on 4G, but that’s only if you count AT&T’s +HSPA network as a 4G contender. Many do not.

Regardless, it’s clear that as we continue to expand our mobile broadband appetite, we’ll have to put our older networks out to pasture, and that time has come for AT&T’s 2G network.

The company recently announced that it would be shutting down its 2G network completely by 2017, according to Thomas Gryta in The Wall Street Journal.

Shutting down these legacy networks will help carriers with spectrum shortages. At the end of June, about 12 percent of AT&T’s customers — around 8.4 million people — were using 2G devices, Gryta said.

Most people with smartphones probably occasionally tap into AT&T’s EDGE network when 3G coverage is spotty. It can get you out of a jam when you need to send a text message, but 2G is no way to browse the mobile Web in 2012.