With spectrum constraints causing network congestion, AT&T has announced additional plans to improve network performance and add capacity. The carrier intends to redeploy spectrum currently used for basic 2G services to support advanced mobile Internet services on its 3G and 4G networks by 2017.
Customers will be transitioned from GSM and EDGE networks on a market-by-market basis. Currently, 12 percent of the carrier’s postpaid customers are using 2G handsets.
“We expect to fully discontinue service on our 2G networks by approximately January 1, 2017. Throughout this multi-year upgrade process, we will work proactively with our customers to manage the process of moving to 3G and 4G devices, which will help minimize customer churn,” the carrier said in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission.
The carrier said it will use tiered data plans to facilitate moving users over to 3G and 4G. It noted that 61.6 percent of its postpaid smartphone subscribers were on tiered data plans at the end of June, up from 44.8 percent at the same time last year.
“Such offerings are intended to encourage existing subscribers to upgrade their current services and add connected devices, attract subscribers from other providers, and minimize subscriber churn,” the company said. “In July 2012, we announced new data plans that would allow subscribers to share data among devices covered by their plan.”
As AT&T pledged to continue investing in its network capacity, it added that it still needs FCC action on spectrum to advance its broadband capacity goals.
“Spectrum constraints could affect the quality of existing voice and data services and our ability to launch new, advanced wireless broadband services. Any spectrum solution will require that the FCC make new or existing spectrum available to the wireless industry to meet the needs of our subscribers,” AT&T wrote.
Tower operators should expect to see less rent from AT&T as it removes its 2G equipment from sites.