AT&T Ending 2G Support

AT&T will be ending mobile service to 2G-only phones within the next five years.

In a 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), AT&T announced "We expect to fully discontinue service on our 2G networks by approximately January 1, 2017." The filing states that as of June 30, 2012, roughly 12 percent of AT&T customers were using 2G-only handsets.

2G phones are easy to hack. As I wrote in When Gadgets Betray Us, 2G GSM phone networks lack mutual authentication. What that means is that a mobile handset authenticates itself to the network (it says, says “I have a chip that allows me access onto your network”), but the network doesn’t have to authenticate to the mobile handset (the network doesn’t say, "Yes, I am the proper network for your handset"). The mobile handset must provide a secret key to the cellular tower to gain permission to talk to the network, but the network doesn’t have to prove its legitimacy. That lack of mutual authentication creates some interesting opportunities.

But security is not the reason for the AT&T decision. By ending that service to customers, the company plans to redeploy spectrum currently used for basic 2G services "to support more advanced mobile Internet services on our 3G and 4G networks."