AT&T walks back promise to support 3.45GHz on older phones

AT&T has cleared up some confusion regarding 5G device compatibility, and it’s not good news for some users. Several new-ish phones like the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, Galaxy S21 and Pixel 6 will not support the mid-band spectrum after all.

As Ars Technica recounts, AT&T last month told CNET that it would be releasing a software update to allow select “older” handsets to leverage its newly acquired 3.45GHz C-band spectrum.

AT&T picked up the spectrum during the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction back in January in what proved to be the third highest grossing auction in FCC history. The telecom led the pack with 1,624 licenses acquired for a total of $9.08 billion. Dish Network (bidding as Weminuche LLC) finished in second place in the auction with $7.33 billion spent for 1,232 licenses. T-Mobile took home the bronze, agreeing to shell out $2.9 billion for 199 licenses.

Shortly after the auction, AT&T executive Chris Sambar told CNET that “the major flagship devices in 2022, the big devices from the big OEMs, they will have 3.45GHz support starting this year and going forward.”

As you can imagine, it was a refreshing bit of news when AT&T expanded on device support in August. Unfortunately, it was all a big mistake.

AT&T representative Jim Greer recently confirmed to Ars Technica that only 2022 and newer devices can be certified by the FCC to use 3.45GHz. Previous statements made about support on older phones was “provided by mistake and then incorrectly confirmed,” Greer added.

An updated list of compatible devices provided to CNET includes the Galaxy S22 family, the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the iPhone 14 family.

Greer’s statement seems to pin the blame for the lack of support on the FCC and its handling of certifications.

It’s worth clarifying that those with 5G phones on AT&T will still be able to leverage its 3.7GHz C-Band as well as low-band and mmWave frequencies. The 3.45GHz spectrum will simply help AT&T create a stronger mid-band network for devices that can tap into it.

AT&T told CNET it is providing information to store teams about its 3.45GHz network and which devices support it, but it’s unclear how much of this will trickle down to customers and factor into their buying decisions.