Sprint to shutter WiMAX network around Nov. 6, 2015

Sprint (NYSE:S) confirmed it will shut off service on its mobile WIMAX network on or around Nov. 6, 2015, giving further clarity on its network evolution.

Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton confirmed the date to FierceWireless. The date was first unearthed in an internal company email posted by the blog Android Central.

In April, Sprint said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it would "cease using WiMAX technology  by the end of 2015." As part of that effort, Sprint said it identified  approximately 6,000 "redundant sites that we expect to decommission and  terminate the underlying leases." 

Norton said that dual-band phones with both WiMAX and 3G/CDMA capabilities will continue to work on Sprint's network as 3G-only devices after the WiMAX network is shut down. "Most WiMAX subscribers are upgrade eligible due to the age of their device," she said. "In addition, offers are being planned for targeted postpaid WiMAX subscribers prior to the WiMAX network shutdown."

According to the email, Sprint has started notifying corporate-liable accounts about the shutdown and will notify individual-liable accounts and prepaid customers 180 days prior to the shutdown. The email says Sprint will not support any WiMAX service extensions past Nov. 6, 2015.

Norton added that Sprint is "encouraging our MVNOs to proactively communicate with their customers about the WiMAX shutdown, notifying them of the impacts and their options. We've also created an online resource center to share ongoing updates, marketing ideas etc. with our MVNOs."

One of Sprint's MVNOs, FreedomPop, told Wireless Week that it has had an LTE device swap program in place for the past year for customers looking to replace an older WiMAX device. FreedomPop said it currently conducts a few thousand WiMAX device swaps per month.

The WiMAX network will be the second network Sprint plans to shut down in as many years. The carrier shut down its iDEN Nextel network last year. It is now deploying LTE service on the 800 MHz spectrum freed from the iDEN network shutdown.

In the spring of 2013, before it acquired Clearwire, Sprint started laying the groundwork to get its WiMAX customers onto LTE devices. Under its revised terms of service, Sprint said it "expressly reserves the right to migrate" customers from its WiMAX service to Sprint's LTE service. "Reasonable advance notice" will be given to customers who might be impacted, and they will have several options: They can choose to finish their contract without WiMAX capability, they can deactivate their service without being charged an early termination fee, or they can transition to Sprint's LTE network. If a customer chooses to switch to Sprint's LTE service, they "will receive a free standard Sprint LTE-capable device and can maintain" their existing service plan, "if available." Sprint said it also may provide other offers that are separate from the transition option, and these offers will be subject to a new two-year contract per line.

For more:
- see this Wireless Week article
- see this Android Central article

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