AT&T says goodbye to 2G, and to the OG iPhone 👋

Back of original iPhone
Back of original iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

AT&T has shut down its 2G (opens in new tab), and with it has ended the original iPhone's ability to connect to any cellular network in the U.S.

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.

Daniel Bader is a Senior Editor at iMore, offering his Canadian analysis on Apple and its awesome products. In addition to writing and producing, Daniel regularly appears on Canadian networks CBC and CTV as a technology analyst.

9 Comments
  • What band does T-mobile use for 2G that the iPhone cannot use? According to Wikipedia T-Mobile uses 1900 GSM for 2G. The iPhone supports GSM at 850,900, 1800 and 1900.
  • The original iPhone was an AT&T exclusive in the US and was never sold unlocked here. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'll believe it when I see it. Still get the crappy 2G when I go through western Wisconsin. It's 2017, that is unacceptable that 2G still exists. Sent from the iMore App
  • What about voice service? Will 911 calls go through?
  • Its funny that, in some parts of Africa, the only signal you can get is EDGE or 2G lol.
    Only once you start marking your way closer to cities does 3G and 4G start showing their face. Ah Africa, we are so far behind the curve the US has lapped us. haha
  • Places like Japan (and South Korea I believe) removed 2G service years ago nation wide. So the US isn't exactly at the front of the race either. Sent from the iMore App
  • But the amount of land mass of either Korea or Japan is far lower than the US. It's not so easy to repurpose all of that infrastructure.
  • Who cares, both the original iPhone and 2G are relics of the past
  • AT&T will find a way to mess up the shut down. They will shut down everyone at the same time.