AT&T will turn off all GSM by 2017
As it faces up to exploding LTE spectrum requirements, carrier wants to refarm PCS spectrum as soon as possible
Published: 6 August, 2012
The race for capacity for mobile broadband will drive operators to switch off their legacy networks more quickly than they did in past migrations. Korea Telecom has already turned off 2G and AT&T says will close all its GSM systems by 2017 at the latest.
In a filing with the SEC, the operator said that at the end of June 2012, just 12% of its postpaid customers were using 2G handsets. It did not give details for prepaid users, but these account for only 11% of its total base anyway.
AT&T has already started to refarm certain GSM sites and encourage users to shift to 3G. Like other US carriers, it wants to harness its PCS spectrum for additional LTE capacity as quickly as possible. Its rivals are going through similar processes - Sprint is decommissioning its iDEN network more quickly than expected to make way for LTE, while T-Mobile is doing a double switch, moving HSPA out of the AWS band into the 2G frequencies, then using AWS spectrum for 4G.
AT&T said in its filing that it was facing significant spectrum and capacity constraints in certain markets and that these will worsen, as well as affecting more markets, in the coming years. Therefore, it needs to institute its multiyear refarming process.
It pledged to "work proactively with customers" to manage the process of moving to 3G and 4G devices, to help minimize churn. It does not expect this transition to have a material impact on operating results, but said it would continue to evaluate the financial impact of transitioning customers from 2G devices.