AT&T intends to shut down its 2G network by 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported today. As of this June, some 12% of AT&T customers were using the 2G service, implying that by the time a half decade has passed, few will be around to mourn the loss of 2G coverage.

And in the opening days of 4G coverage, to contemplate losing what is now the dial-up of the mobile world isn’t too sad a moment.

Current mobile carriers face a shortage of spectrum as usage of smartphones has exploded, shooting the demand for mobile data through the roof. As TNW reported yesterday, AT&T purchased NextWave Wireless for $25 up front, the potential of another $25 million, and the retirement of debt that brought the entire purchase to a total price of $600 million. Why? NextWave has spectrum, and AT&T needs it.

As TNW reported when the news broke:

WCS licences cover a 30 MHz-wide spectrum, and were auctioned for commercial use way back in 1997. [...] AT&T said that the NextWave acquisition, in conjunction with the proposed WCS rule changes, “represent an alternative approach to creating additional wireless network capacity to help support skyrocketing wireless data usage on smartphones and tablets.”

In short, AT&T needs to send more data, and needs more space to do so. Taking on NextWave is a move that strictly allows it to do just that. And for the financial types, the Journal quotes AT&T as stating that the transition won’t hurt its financial performance.

If you are still using one of the first generation iPhones, you only have 5 years left until it will become an iPod Touch.

Top Image Credit: zombieite