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AT&T to shut down 2G services by 2017

Vodafone is set to roll out LTE-A network services

US operator AT&T plans to discontinue its 2G GSM services by 2017, in an attempt to free up spectrum for more advanced technologies.

The spectrum shortage in the US has been widely publicised, with operators in the country striking deals with spectrum holders in order to ramp up their own portfolio. AT&T recently announced plans to acquire NextWave Wireless, which holds spectrum licences in the US AWS and WCS bands, for $650m.

The move came just a few months after its failed attempt to acquire rival T-Mobile USA, which would have boosted the operator’s spectrum holdings.

AT&T uses the 850MHz and 1900MHz spectrum for its GSM service, and the same spectrum bands for its W-CDMA service, making its decision to free up spectrum in those bands a logical one.

Just 12 per cent of the operator’s customer base is on GSM, but that number has been falling steadily. According to Informa’s WCIS, the operator’s GSM subscriber base has halved over the past 12 months, with a little over 14 million subscribers on the network in June 2012, down from the 28.4 million subscribers in June 2011. The operator has now stopped selling 2G handsets to new customers.

The operator also has a keen focus on the machine-to-machine (M2M) market, for which it uses GSM services, but these will likely shift to using W-CDMA technologies as well.

“Well in advance of this change, we will reach out to our relatively small percentage of 2G customers and offer them options to meet their needs,” an AT&T spokesperson told Telecoms.com.


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