About four years ago, AT&T announced that they would be shutting down their legacy 2G network on January 1st, 2017. And as the calendar flipped over from 2016 to 2017, that is exactly what happened. John Donovan, AT&T's Chief Strategy Officer and Group President confirmed the move in a blog post published today. Donovan notes that the move to shut down their 2G network means that there will now be more space for their 3G and 4G networks to thrive, as they'll be able to refarm that 2G spectrum and use it for these newer, faster networks.
Since 2007, AT&T's data usage has grown a whopping 250,000%. Of course, back in 2007, Android and iOS weren't a thing. And mobile internet was more or less a stripped down version of a website. Nowadays, many people use their mobile device for the majority of their Internet browsing. Which accounts for a big portion of the growth that AT&T has seen in data usage in the past decade. Of course, seeing everyone switch from a flip phone that didn't have internet, to a smartphone that is always connected, definitely helped.
Donovan says in his blog post that "faster technologies will improve the wireless experience". And that's part of their move to retire their 2G network. As it will allow them to continue to deploy 4G LTE and other technologies as they prepare for 5G, which is going to become a pretty popular topic over the next few years, especially towards the end of this decade and into the next. AT&T did work with users that were still on their 2G network to help them upgrade, offering discounts and incentives to get them off of the legacy network and onto a 3G or 4G LTE device. AT&T's 3G and 4G networks cover nearly 99% of the United States, so there should be virtually no area where a device would drop from 4G LTE to 2G or EDGE. AT&T is the first to retire their 2G network, but they won't be the last, Verizon should be retiring theirs soon, followed by T-Mobile and Sprint in the foreseeable future.