AT&T upgrades 3G spectrum to 5G - Mobile World Live

AT&T upgrades 3G spectrum to 5G

20 MAR 2019

AT&T started recycling some of its 3G bands for 5G service ahead of an anticipated shutdown of its 3G network in February 2022.

In a statement to Mobile World Live, an operator representative said it is in the process of reallocating capacity and “redeploying spectrum currently used for 3G services to support mobile services on our 4G LTE and 5G networks based on market-by-market evaluations”.

Ahead of the 2022 shutdown date, the representative said AT&T is working “proactively” to encourage customers on its 3G network to migrate to more advanced services. The transition is expected to be smooth, but the representative acknowledged the possibility that some 3G customers could experience “minor temporary issues while we’re completing this work”.

At end December 2018, regulatory filings showed about 11 per cent of AT&T’s post-paid customers were still using 3G handsets.

The representative did not specify which bands the operator is upgrading. However, AT&T VP of converged access and device technology Gordon Mansfield previously said the operator planned to reuse its 850MHz and 1900MHz spectrum for 5G.

A note sent to AT&T customers, which was posted to LinkedIn, appeared to confirm work is being conducted in those bands:

The move follows AT&T’s launch of mobile 5G service in 12 markets in December 2018 and comes as it pushes to expand to at least nine more markets in 2019. Mansfield said previously the addition of low-band spectrum in its 5G network will allow it to offer “pretty broad coverage” by the end of 2019.

AT&T isn’t the only one shutting down its 3G network: rival Verizon previously announced plans to shutter its 3G network at the close of 2019.

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Diana Goovaerts

Diana joins Mobile World Live as its new US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana comes to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and...

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