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AT&T Killing Its 2G Network By 2017

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the taking-ol'-yeller-out-back dept.

AT&T 102

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T has plans to shut down its 2G network by January 1, 2017. Roughly 12% of its contact wireless customers — 8.4 million people — have 2G handsets, and the company plans to gradually move them to devices running on more modern networks. "The timeline for the 2G shutdown was made in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. An AT&T spokesman said the company no longer sells 2G handsets to contract or prepaid customers. Along with phones, the company does have some other devices connected to its 2G networks, but it also expects that they will transition to more modern technology in coming years. As the carriers deal with ever increasing data usage on their networks, they also are facing a spectrum shortage to carry all the traffic. Shutting down legacy networks is one part of the plan, along with acquiring new spectrum and finding innovative ways to use unused airwaves."

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102 comments

RIP GSM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873291)

GSM is dead. Finally.

Re:RIP GSM (2)

sarysa (1089739) | about 2 years ago | (#40873363)

I thought CDMA was the one people were rooting to go. I have a CDMA device but I recognize that it's essentially like the Imperial measurement system.

Re:RIP GSM (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873383)

CDMA is all that is modern with cell phones. GSM is a dead technology. What people call 3G GSM is actually CDMA (WCDMA). LTE/4G is based on CDMA.

Re:RIP GSM (2)

arkane1234 (457605) | about 2 years ago | (#40873409)

IPv6 is based off of IPv4, also... about as much as LTE/4G is based on CDMA.

Re:RIP GSM (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873437)

"CDMA" stands for Code Division Multiple Access, which has been used for pretty much every modern cellular technology (the alternative for mobile handsets being time division).

It also has an old, obsolete cellular network protocol named after it.

Re:RIP GSM (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#40873471)

And "GSM" stands for Global System for Mobile Telecommunications, which has many versions. The AT&T "2G" is one of these, but so is their "3G" and their "4G."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSM [wikipedia.org]

Re:RIP GSM (5, Funny)

imbusy (1002705) | about 2 years ago | (#40873551)

Yes, I understand now, that I understand nothing about mobile standards.

Re:RIP GSM (4, Informative)

downhole (831621) | about 2 years ago | (#40875065)

Felt like doing my best at a mobile tech summary, and here seems as good a place as any:

One common mix-up is between air interfaces and complete cellular systems. CDMA and TDMA are both types of air interfaces - how the phone and the tower actually communicate with each other. CDMA is also used to refer to a complete cellular system which was originally based on the CDMA air interface. GSM also refers to a complete cellular system, whose original incarnation, usually known as 2G, was based on a TDMA air interface. Near as I can tell, it's pretty much universally known that CDMA air interfaces are vastly more efficient than TDMA, but the actual cellular systems have leapfrogged other a bunch of times.

I think GSM started out doing data on a separate TDMA frequency called GPRS, which worked, but was pretty slow and inefficient. CDMA started doing data over it's same frequencies, which was a bit faster and much more efficient. Then GSM came up with EDGE to improve speed, and then CDMA came up with CDMA2000, and then GSM switched to WCDMA/UTMS, which actually used a CDMA air interface, and CDMA switched to EVDO, reaching the peak of 3G. LTE is the next-gen air interface, using a OFDM air interface and otherwise is based on the GSM system, and as far as I can tell, everybody is switching to it. Hopefully, in 5-10 years or so, all the carriers worldwide will use LTE and all of the phones will have LTE basebands that cover all of the frequencies everybody is using, and you'll be able to take any device anywhere in the world and use it.

For various marketing reasons that don't make much objective sense, most of the world ended up standardizing on GSM long ago and only a few countries used systems based on the original CDMA technology, which is why if you have a CDMA phone, you're pretty much boned on international roaming.

And the AndroidFormums post that the AC below me posted is a rip-off of this USS Clueless post: http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/10/GSM3G.shtml [denbeste.nu] which does have a really good explanation of why CDMA is much better than TDMA.

Re:RIP GSM (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#40875593)

"For various marketing reasons that don't make much objective sense, most of the world ended up standardizing on GSM long ago"

No, it makes a lot of objective sense. The single great thing about GSM... is removable SIMs. So you don't HAVE to roam... you just pop in a new SIM.

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40878141)

Actually this is a myth. CDMA phones have multiple NAMs (Number Assignment Module) https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Number_Assignment_Module [wikimedia.org]

Although it is less common to see it on the latest models of CDMA phones, probably because carriers choose not to include the menu option, the chipsets are all capable of handling it.

With multiple NAMs, you can simply go into a menu and select another carrier and you have already switched carriers in a matter of seconds. No need to power down, remove the battery door, remove the battery, remove the sim card, then put in the other sim card, put the battery back in, put the battery door back on, and power back up. Just a few quick button taps is all it takes with CDMA. You don't even have to reboot the phone.

The true advantage of the SIM card is that it can store your contacts when you switch phones. This was extremely convenient in the 90s and early 2000s when people were not using smart phones that could sync contacts over the network. Now there is no great need for SIM cards.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about 2 years ago | (#40879245)

And the other advantage is that you can change phones at will with GSM/UMTS, and you can't easily with CDMA/IS-95/EvDO/etc. If I'm going somewhere where I don't want to risk damaging my fancy Android or iOS phone, I can throw my SIM into an older, cheaper phone and still have telephone service. With the competing standard I have to call my provider and they might charge me for the privilege.

It also makes it nearly impossible for cellular carriers to prohibit you from bringing your own device. Imagine if Internet service providers insisted that you buy your computer from them, and only their computer would work. I want the freedom to choose my own device if I want. GSM/UMTS permits that. I just have to ensure that the frequencies and technologies I need are supported in the phone I choose.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#40875601)

Don't worry about it. The AC is doing his best to confuse everybody.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873797)

Time Division is what AT&T is shutting down. GSM uses TDMA.

Re:RIP GSM (3, Informative)

frieko (855745) | about 2 years ago | (#40874527)

Interestingly the one thing that LTE doesn't inherit from WCDMA is the CDMA-based air interface. LTE uses OFDM, which is a radical departure from CDMA. OFDM uses a drastically slower symbol rate to reduce the effects of echoing (multipath), but then makes up for the reduced capacity by adding thousands of narrowly-spaced carriers. Because combating multipath is the main limiting factor in practical wireless the overall efficiency is drastically increased.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#40874827)

There's also OFDM which is used for WiMax and LTE.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

pbjones (315127) | about 2 years ago | (#40873717)

you are mixing stuff up, very badly. '4G' LTE is an overall product, CDMA or WCDMA is a only a wireless system.

Re:RIP GSM (3, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#40873897)

you are mixing stuff up, very badly. '4G' LTE is an overall product, CDMA or WCDMA is a only a wireless system.

LTE is an overall product that doesn't use CDMA for its air interface; instead, it uses OFDMA [3gpp.org] .

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | about 2 years ago | (#40875687)

LTE is not CDMA. LTE is OFDM which is FDMA/TDMA in combination, very much like GSM. GSM in its simplest form have communication between handset and base-station on only one carrier while LTE use multiple sub-carriers but it is nothing like the CDMA mess of IS95/WCDMA.

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40878179)

That is not true. LTE does not use OFDM. It uses OFDMA, which is an enhanced form of CDMA.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Orthogonal_frequency-division_multiple_access [wikimedia.org]

OFDMA resembles code division multiple access (CDMA) spread spectrum, where users can achieve different data rates by assigning a different code spreading factor or a different number of spreading codes to each user.

OFDMA can be seen as an alternative to combining OFDM with time division multiple access (TDMA) or time-domain statistical multiplexing, i.e. packet mode communication. Low-data-rate users can send continuously with low transmission power instead of using a "pulsed" high-power carrier. Constant delay, and shorter delay, can be achieved.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about 2 years ago | (#40879255)

Sounds to me like it's a CDMA-TDMA hybrid, since it uses elements of both.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#40880419)

That is not true. LTE does not use OFDM. It uses OFDMA, which is an enhanced form of CDMA.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Orthogonal_frequency-division_multiple_access [wikimedia.org]

OFDMA resembles code division multiple access (CDMA) spread spectrum, where users can achieve different data rates by assigning a different code spreading factor or a different number of spreading codes to each user.

"Resembles" CDMA, not "is an enhanced form of CDMA". "...where users can achieve different data rates by..." applies to CDMA, not OFDMA.

The article also says that OFDMA "is a multi-user version of the popular orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) digital modulation scheme.", noting that "Multiple access is achieved in OFDMA by assigning subsets of subcarriers to individual users as shown in the illustration below."

Re:RIP GSM (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#40885585)

Well, the GP is several decades too early.

State of mainstream Western mobile technologies:

  1. There are virtually no analog systems running any more
  2. D-AMPS (so-called "TDMA") is dead
  3. cdmaOne/cdma2000 (so-called "CDMA") is beginning a slow process of being phased out in favor of LTE, though no operators have announced actual plans (as in deadlines) - as yet - to discontinue it. I'd be surprised if Sprint and Verizon didn't have at least a limited cdma2000 service in ten years, though in twenty I think it'll be gone.
  4. The discontinuation of 2G GSM has been announced by one company. Every other GSM operator is still running it, but ultimately everyone knows it'll also eventually be supplanted by UMTS and LTE (3G and 4G GSM respectively.)

(2G) GSM is cheap, has tiny spectrum requirements, is easy to expand, and is everywhere, so despite AT&T's decision, I doubt it's going to go away any time soon. I suspect quite a few networks will turn off their 2G GSM service over the next twenty years, but I'd be surprised if the phones themselves aren't still supporting it in 20 years.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873611)

3G and 4G have a poor coverage and reception

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 2 years ago | (#40876549)

Yeah, so are they going to stop proving coverage in rural areas? Or maybe they already have skipped that. 3G has very short range and 4G pretty much has no range. Only 2G works for giving coverage to large thinly populated areas.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873721)

I think people are completely uninformed about this.

AT&T was calling GSM "3G" when they brought it in, but then started calling it 2.5G.

"2G" GSM is all TDMA, AT&T's actual 2G system was the PCS TDMA.
UMTS aka WCDMA is not the same CDMA that Verizon uses for their 2G network

At any rate, most of the people still using "2G" GSM are prepaid, and fixed-installations like security alarms (which actually send DTMF tones, not data) and car phone systems. (Much like when the Analog system was shut down, it was also car phones and "bag phones")

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873865)

Uninformed? Verizon has no 2G network. 1xRTT and EVDO are both 3G.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#40873957)

Uninformed? Verizon has no 2G network. 1xRTT and EVDO are both 3G.

So they've already shut down their cdmaOne network?

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40874061)

No. There is no need to, It uses the same frequencies. It co-exists with 3G CDMA. If someone uses it, it is there, if nobody is using it (99.99% of the time), then it might as well not be there at all.

This is compared to 2G GSM (TDMA) and 2G "GSM" (WCDMA) which use different radios and frequencies.

The CDMA model has a much cleaner upgrade path. They never really had to shut down 2G, they just stopped using it.

I'm not sure what year they stopped selling 2G CDMA phones, but it was probably over 10 years ago. Some phones made as recently has 2005 could be coaxed to work in 2G mode if you got into the diagnostics. There isn't much of a purpose in doing that, but it shows that the same radio and the same antenna and the same frequencies can handle CDMA in 2G or 3G.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

LiENUS (207736) | about 2 years ago | (#40874227)

Doesn't the definition for 3G include the ability to run data service during a voice call, ie ruling out 1xRTT and EVDO as being 3g, ie verizon never has had 3G and never will since they skipped straight to 4G

Re:RIP GSM (1)

frieko (855745) | about 2 years ago | (#40874579)

EVDO supports it, but it requires one radio for voice and one radio for EVDO. HTC built one phone like that, but nobody else did. Also, no carrier has an actual 4G network yet - LTE won't qualify until the next release and nobody has deployed VOLTE yet last I checked.

More than 1 phone supported SVDO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40874637)

The LG Viper supported SVDO (simultaneous 1x/3G voice/data), as did the HTC EVO and the HTC Thunderbolt and the HTC Rezound.

4G Lite (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40874813)

Also, no carrier has an actual 4G network yet - LTE won't qualify until the next release

So I guess that means people who read "4G LTE" as "4G Lite" aren't misreading it.

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40876407)

If you turn off 2G on a GSM phone, you won't get voice and data at the same time. You only get that if you are using voice on 2G and data on 3G.

So, no. That is not the definition of 3G.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about 2 years ago | (#40879281)

3G GSM (i.e. UMTS, HSPA, etc.) fully support simultaneous voice and data. I can say this equivocally because my provider (SaskTel) has no 2G GSM coverage, and it works for me.

GPRS and EDGE, the 2G GSM technologies for data, definitely are paused when you make a voice call. However, with UMTS/HSPA/etc. (i.e. 3G GSM), whether your network has 2G service or not, you can use voice and data simultaneously. Data will slow down to UMTS speeds, but it will continue to flow.

Re:RIP GSM (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#40874889)

This is wrong. Verizon has a 2G network. It doesn't

Re:RIP GSM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40874015)

Currently, ATMs are more reliable when using 2G instead of 3G. If SXSW is going on, you definitely want to use 2G for downtown devices.

Faggots (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873305)

Good. Only faggots use 2G.

Re:Faggots (1)

todrules (882424) | about 2 years ago | (#40874073)

So, what are you going to do after they shut off 2G?

Re:Faggots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40875541)

Fuck your dad in the shower and have a snack.

*sigh* (1)

dtmos (447842) | about 2 years ago | (#40873351)

Oh, well. I guess I'll have to join the 21st Century, like everyone else.

Re:*sigh* (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40873719)

Me too but I'm not concerned. By the time 2017 rolls-around and I am forced to give-up my cheap Nokia phone, my ISP virginmobile will probably be selling 4G-enabled smartphones on the same $5/month plan.

More likely the 10-year-old battery will stop working loooong before 2017 gets here. That's what happened to my old 1G analog phone..... it would not hold a charge any longer than 5 minutes (just long enough to say "Thanks. I'll call you back"). I had already upgraded before the 1G standard had been phased out.

Re:*sigh* (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#40875063)

VM already has a 4G phone, the HTC EVO V. It uses the legacy WiMax, not LTE, but it's 4G. My guess is they are offering WiMax on VM because they have to finish out a contract with Clear and so as they move their higher RPU users off WiMax to LTE they might as well get some revenue from the WiMax spectrum they're still paying for.

Re:*sigh* (1)

Ziggitz (2637281) | about 2 years ago | (#40873835)

Fret not, you'll probably be able to get 3g call only phones by then and you have 5 years to come to terms with it.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40882721)

ATT prepaid phones at the $15 price point were sold with 3G chips. I have one as a backup in my glovebox right now, and was given to me 3 years ago in a very rural area (60K population for the entire county). Now I am sitting with my Thunderbolt with BAMF and getting as good as signal as that lil' candybar phone.

Re:*sigh* (2)

Cramer (69040) | about 2 years ago | (#40874065)

Yep... forced to use "modern" battery eating technology. I still carry around my 2G/EDGE phone because it lasts weeks on a charge. (2wks with BT enabled, 4wks without) It's replacement (ATT/Sony W518) won't last a week. The iPhone (3GS?) I was sent when the old 2G phone went nuts, wouldn't last 3 *DAYS* without being charged; and if I actually used it for apps, then it wouldn't last a day.

(Yes, the 2G phone will eat it's battery if you take it to fringe area, like, Carolina Motorsports Park. :-))

No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (5, Informative)

Art Popp (29075) | about 2 years ago | (#40873353)

Spectral efficiency in symbols per Hz:

2G .45
LTE 16.15

So we ~ 32 times as much data out of the 2G spectrum if we get people and devices to upgrade.

Re:No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 2 years ago | (#40873397)

I can't wait for the efficiency to be paired with the better penetration of the lower frequency.

Re:No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40873491)

I can't wait for the efficiency to be paired with the better penetration of the lower frequency.

it's great. it means 3g connectivity in backwoods. most of the summer cottages I've been to in finland lately have had 3g coverage through the 900mhz band being rolled out for 3g now. some finnish operators are going to switch gsm off sometime in 2015 (it's deployed now in 1800mhz).

Re:No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#40873501)

Given the timelines that sounds like it'll be 2020 before they can roll anything out in quantity. If they shut the network down in 2017, which will probably face squabbling and delays, 2018 and then start rolling out new technology on top of the old network it'll be tough to turn on something new before 2019.

Re:No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#40874917)

When I went through the LTE spec it was the first time in a very long time I looked at something technical and thought "this is amazingly clever!"

Re:No conspiracies, no Evil, just more bandwidth (1)

subreality (157447) | about 2 years ago | (#40875361)

How so? It's just OFDM, much like 802.11A/G/N and DSL. The technique isn't really new - it's just that we're starting to get more efficient chips which can run a continuous FFT while still getting reasonable battery life.

I'll wait (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 2 years ago | (#40873453)

for an LTE version before I upgrade

How much 2G equipment is out there? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40873469)

I wonder how much 2G equipment is out there. A few years ago I just deployed a 2G only data acquisition device (it was cheaper and had lower power requirements than the 3G device). It has very low bandwidth needs, a few hundred bytes every hour, so even 2G is more than fast enough.

I doubt this device will still be running 5 years from now, so maybe this shutdown really won't have much impact.

buses, trucks, alarm systems... (2)

swschrad (312009) | about 2 years ago | (#40873769)

lot of embedded 2G in places where they don't want to spend money to upgrade things. places where it's not as easy to switch as dropping the old phone in a bucket and being handed a shiny new phone.

Re:buses, trucks, alarm systems... (2)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40874017)

So the cops will have to sneak up and crawl under my car some night to swap out their GPS tracker.

Re:How much 2G equipment is out there? (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 2 years ago | (#40876573)

A lot. At least in Europe. GSM is considered a default. Mobile credit-card devices for bars and restaurants uses GSM, the devices hasn't changed in 10 years and they have no reason to. Also industrial montoring and any other devices designed to only send SMS's, and.. wait for it.. fire and burglary alarms. The later used to be fixed wire only, but the ones that are mobile uses GSM for better coverage and reliabilty.

Re:How much 2G equipment is out there? (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 2 years ago | (#40877023)

In addition to what has been mentioned: smart electricity/gas meters (don't know for a fact that they don't use 3G), remote controlled switches, e.g. for turning on the heating in a cabin.

Re:How much 2G equipment is out there? (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 2 years ago | (#40877037)

Oh I forgot, remote controlled road barrier (no, really) .

Just Peachy (3, Insightful)

kf4ebp2 (2700293) | about 2 years ago | (#40873479)

I have been using a dual sim GSM quad band for travel from the US to Germany. Looks like I'll have to carry two phones again. :(

Re:Just Peachy (3, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#40873863)

I have been using a dual sim GSM quad band for travel from the US to Germany. Looks like I'll have to carry two phones again. :(

Is that "GSM" as in "it only does TDMA, not any flavor of CDMA including those used for UMTS in Germany", so that it won't work on AT&T once they shut down 2G and wouldn't work on any 3G or later networks in Europe either, only on European 2G networks, or "GSM" as in "it only supports the GSM/3GPP protocol stack, but handles both 2G and 3G", so that it'll continue to work on AT&T?

Or is it that the only frequencies it works on with AT&T are their 2G frequencies, so that, whilst it might continue to work fine in Europe if it handles their 3G frequencies, it won't work with AT&T in the US once AT&T stops using those frequencies for 2G unless AT&T switches them to services that your phone also supports?

Re:Just Peachy (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#40875473)

I agree - people seem to be missing out on the fact that 2G is the least-common denominator. Virtually all GSM phones support it. Very few phones support 3G+ universally, because there are a bunch of different standards, and various carriers use various ones, and each uses phones that support their standards only.

This move will likely have little impact on AT&T customers, but what about people who travel and need to roam?

I belive its this new (0)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 2 years ago | (#40873489)

Strowger switch technology - non of this gosh darned commie euro 3 and 4g:-)

Not a good idea... (4, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | about 2 years ago | (#40873565)

Considering the AT&T network still has a fair number of 2G areas, and many places have it where you get better service quality with 2G compared to 3G, I do NOT want to see 2G get shut down for quite a while. When AT&T actually updates their network, then they can shut down 2G.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40873623)

I've noticed that with my Kindle. There are some areas where 3G can not be obtained, but the 2G Edge technology works just fine. Presumably when they put 4 or 5G where the 2G used to be, they signals will reach farther (since they are lower frequency).

Re:Not a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873861)

They're going to refarm the spectrum for HSPA+ or LTE or whatever is out next, so it'll probably be a gradual process. All you'll notice is that the Edge signal is replaced with a 3G or 4G signal.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873867)

Usually when they take down the old antennas, they put up new antennas to keep the lease. So as they turn off the old network they're putting up the new network, that way they can keep the leasing space.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

yuhong (1378501) | about 2 years ago | (#40874589)

Yep, five years is plenty of time.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#40875087)

It's highly unlikely they'll actually replace antennas unless they need to for MIMO reasons. Generally when the providers upgrade a tower it's all done from the ground by switching out cards and/or software.

Re:Not a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40874033)

True. I have several monitoring sites where I have had to lock data cards to 2G. They will see a 3G tower, but -76dB. But, change to 2G and it's -60dB. I can pound more data over 2G at that signal strength.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#40874541)

That was my thought. There literally are no 3G towers in my area from *ANY* provider. Verizon claims they are bringing one in 'spring 2012', but that has yet to materialize. I guess this gives us a timeline for 1 of two things:
1: AT&T's national coverage map is going to shrink massively in 2017 2. AT&T gets off its ass and upgrades a LOT of towers. i'm going to Occams razor that one to the cheeper solution.

Re:Not a good idea... (2)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#40874929)

Verizon is putting up a new 3G tower in your area? That seems hard to believe.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#40881043)

they 'say' they are going to put up a tower, 'spring 2012'. seeing as spring ended quite a while ago, there is slight difference between what they say, and what they do.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 2 years ago | (#40892795)

Verizon's big push now is to build out its 4G network, because LTE has is much more efficient from a bandwidth perspective. I would be surprised if they didn't just skip 3G in your area.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40874939)

i'm going to Occams razor that one

Well, you can certainly verb a noun.

Re:Not a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40879979)

A couple of points:

1. It is cheaper to upgrade their towers than install new ones.

2. Losing customers through reducing their coverage will cost them more money than upgrading their towers.

Also please learn what Occam's razor actually is and when and how to apply it.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#40881059)

Occams razor: the simpler explanation (or solution) is probably the correct one.
it was sort of a tongue in cheek usage, I'll admit, but I don't see how its abjectly wrong.

Re:Not a good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40896871)

Because you missed a key aspect: The simplest answer *out of many equally plausible answers* is probably the correct one.

Your use ignores both points from the other AC, which makes tearing down existing towers less plausible than upgrading them in-place. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the upgraded towers still operated on the same frequencies and required new devices to use them. It all boils down to if getting them to work on multiple bands during the upgrade is plausible or not.

Re:Not a good idea... (2, Insightful)

adler187 (448837) | about 2 years ago | (#40874583)

Your comment makes no sense, since reusing those frequencies for more efficient newer technologies (4G) will improve their network.

The reason that 2G has better signal quality than 3G in your area is that the 3G signal is overloaded. Since 3G phones will prioritize 3G signals over 2G signals (since they are more efficient and capable of more bandwidth) and most people have 3G phones, most phones are on 3G signals.

AT&T are in a bind right now (as are most other cell providers). More people are trying to use more data over wireless all the time, which means that their cell networks are getting overcrowded and way oversold. They need to add more capacity, but that requires either more RF bandwidth (necessitating new phones/devices to use the new frequencies) or they need to replace their current services with more efficient protocols that are more spectral efficient (moving to LTE). This is part of the latter. By reusing the bandwidth that is currently in use for 2G as 4G (or shift 2G -> 3G, 3G -> 4G), they can add more capacity to their network, thus improving the network quality for everyone (except those still using 2G only devices).

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about 2 years ago | (#40879311)

Or putting up more towers, and shrinking the "cells" that the sites cover. More towers = more frequent reuse of frequencies = denser service and more bandwidth. But it costs a lot more money and takes a lot more work than just turning off the 2G service.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

jkmartin (816458) | about 2 years ago | (#40875023)

Time was when you had to rent a phone. That phone would probably last you 20 years though. Now you have to buy a phone and since that phone is actually a computer it's subject to Moore's Law and will be practically useless within 3 years. AT&T learned quite a few things when their monopoly was broken up in the '80s and since that time they've worked very diligently to put it back together. Unfortunately most of their infrastructure seems to date back to their telegraph days.

Re:Not a good idea... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 2 years ago | (#40876863)

My three and a half year 'dumb phone', I'm typing this, begs to differ. Runs Opera Mini, midpSSH, Facebook Java application, Google Maps, and many more. It can make calls, SMS, email (POP3/IMAP). Battery still holds a day. All that on a dumb phone...

hopefully smaller carriers build out quick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40873653)

I'm with a smaller carrier that currently only offers edge until they roll out their 4g here very soon... but when I'm on att or T-Mobile towers I'm still able to use edge for data. Unless edge counts as 2.5G and they don't shut that off, I hope they allow 3G roaming capabilities as their towers only cover about 6 or 7 counties in central and east PA...

T-Mobile way behind (4, Funny)

jgotts (2785) | about 2 years ago | (#40873657)

What I like about T-Mobile is when I go into a rural area, I'm lucky to get GSM, let alone 3G. T-Mobile even drops out along the interstates. 3G only works in certain areas of large cities and along some major highways but not even all interstates.

Which makes it very difficult to bother me on vacation.

Re:T-Mobile way behind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40877491)

Funny as it may be, but that is why I am with T Mobile. I do not hang out in the middle of now where, nor do I expect coverage there. T Mobile went where the people are and said fuck it to the boonies. Makes good business sense.

Also, to the expected rant from all those that CHOSE to live in the fucking boonies and complain about coverage, go pound sand.

I hope they know what they're doing.. (1)

dohnut (189348) | about 2 years ago | (#40874035)

In many places in my neck of the woods I cannot get 3G and my phone has to fall back to EDGE in order for me to have any data whatsoever. So, if by discontinuing EDGE they mean they are going to increase their 3G/4G coverage then that's just great but, more than likely, that is not what this means.

Not that any of this matters to me anymore because my next phone will be on Verizon's network. AT&T's coverage is truly pathetic where I live. I've been with AT&T for 4 years and the same dead spots that existed 4 years ago are still dead spots today. If I go back home most of the county my grandparents live in has no service (voice or data) at all for AT&T -- you can get a Verizon signal everywhere. Also, there are many areas in the mid-sized cities in my region where your average person would just expect a signal (shopping districts, heavily trafficked recreational areas, etc) yet time and time again AT&T gives me the unexpected.

Finally! (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 2 years ago | (#40874101)

I no longer have to worry about my crappy call-dropping 2G coverage since it has since been replaced by my crappy call-dropping 3G coverage which is now being replaced by my crappy call-dropping 4G coverage.

Re:Finally! (1)

mkkohls (2386704) | about 2 years ago | (#40874671)

I no longer have to worry about my crappy call-dropping 2G coverage since it has since been replaced by my crappy call-dropping 3G coverage which is now being replaced by my crappy call-dropping 4G coverage.

Not only that but with a larger phone and less battery life. Progress is awesome.

It would seem (1, Insightful)

jxander (2605655) | about 2 years ago | (#40874747)

We don't like AT&T around here? Just trying to get a feel for the general zeitgeist. Is it due to their original iPhone monopoly, and thus tied to Apple-hate?

As best I can tell, if AT&T was a good guy, the headline would read something more like "AT&T plans to upgrade all phones to higher standards." But as they're apparently bad guys, they're planning to kill off a vital service!

Re:It would seem (2)

afidel (530433) | about 2 years ago | (#40875107)

Uh, have you had any dealings with AT&T? There's a reason their 1983-1999 logo was nicknamed the death star.

Re:It would seem (1)

pjbgravely (751384) | about 2 years ago | (#40875335)

When it was called Cingular, I had 4 bars almost everywhere. When they changed their name to AT&T my signal in rural areas dropped to 2. I still get service where people with Sprint or Verizon get none, but the lower signal causes dropped calls. I guess they saved money by turning all the towers down.

Another reason why people hate AT&T.

Re:It would seem (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#40877063)

It's possible that this had to do with the end of a sharing agreement they had with Voicestream (now T-Mobile). I know my T-Mobile service suffered when the AT&T roaming was reduced.

Re:It would seem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40875221)

The "upgraded" phones tend to either not be free, or tied to a New Contract/Plan. Or have we already forgotten recent history?

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/case/cingular-att-merger-coneff-v-att-corp-et-al

Re:It would seem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40876433)

I believe it's mostly due to more people living in places like California and New York. ATT is strongest in the southern United States compared to other services. Even Verizon has some issues, much to some New Yorkers' dismay, when they come to visit Texas.

ATT customer service around here is pretty amazing, whereas in my experience, T-Mobile and Verizon's customer services sucks big time.

It really is a geolocation issue. ATT used to be SBC and Cingular and from that Southwestern Bell.

Re:It would seem (1)

downhole (831621) | about 2 years ago | (#40878153)

I'd chalk it up to the all carriers suck mindset. Any wireless carrier you can name, you can find lots and lots of people who hate their guts, usually for reasons that don't really justify the hate. I switched off of AT&T to Verizon because at the time AT&T didn't have any good Android phones, now I just switched back to AT&T (well, a prepaid SIM card on AT&T's network) because I wanted a Galaxy Nexus so that I could use stock android and get updates right away and Verizon screwed theirs up - 6 month wait for even trivial bug-fix updates.

Killing its 2G network? (1)

ajyasgar (2449448) | about 2 years ago | (#40875959)

Nothing's stopping them, now that the iPhone killed their 3G network.

A market opportunity for Sprint (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 years ago | (#40877179)

Not to offer them 3G or 4G service mind you, but to move them all over to Sprint's for shit zero-G network.

3G at last? (1)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#40877313)

Yippee! I assume this means that by January 2017 I'll have 3G service at my house! AT&T has been non-responsive to this question, but now I have an answer.

Rethink possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40877645)

... and I thought they were just going to rebrand it as their new super fast 5g network

Losing redundancy. (1)

Zoson (300530) | about 2 years ago | (#40902505)

Its not even that you can't get 3G service sometimes... It can be that 3G service is overloaded.

One example is at outdoor concerts... Where suddenly tens of thousands of people show up. The 3G tower in place just can't handle it. No calls, no texts, no data... But full bars.

Switch to 2G because everyone is on 3G, and everything works. Sure data's not fast, but you can send texts and make calls.

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