AT&T is moving its 2G to 5G, but we're still on 4G, and 3G is crying in a corner.
Though the shutdown was no surprise — AT&T announced the impending closure in 2013, and has worked with customers, mainly in the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) space to transition their equipment over to cheaper and more energy-efficient LTE — it does mark the end of a remarkable 10-year ride for the iPhone, which celebrated its ten-year announcement last week.
Back then, AT&T's data network was still marketed under the Cingular name, and was a launch partner of Apple's when the iPhone debuted in June of 2007. Indeed, that exclusivity lasted until January 2011, when the Verizon iPhone 4 debuted to much acclaim and support for CDMA networks.
The original iPhone carried traffic at less than 100 times today's LTE networks. Like, whoa.
AT&T's 2G network carried traffic at speeds far lower than what we're used to today; the original iPhone would have downloaded data at an average of 135kbps, less than one tenth the average speed of its 3G network, and around 100 times less than the LTE speeds we're used to today. But AT&T's EDGE network was also subject to considerable criticism when the iPhone debuted, as it was unable to withstand the data-intensive applications the iPhone afforded its growing install base. Because Mobile Safari was rendering the actual web, and not just an approximation of it through the WAP standard, AT&T had to shore up its 2G network in America's largest cities like New York and San Francisco, but performance issues persisted well into the 3G era, and didn't abate until it launched LTE in 2011.
T-Mobile, in an announcement back in September 2016, promised to be AT&T customers' "2G lifeline," claiming that it only plans to shut down its 2G network in 2020. Unfortunately for original iPhone owners on T-Mo, it uses a different spectrum to access that older network tech, and the phone, should it turn on, won't work.
At least there's always Wi-Fi.