iDEN supporters downplay Sprint's plans to shut down network

Operators SouthernLINC Wireless and NII Holdings and infrastructure vendor Motorola (NYSE:MOT) will continue to support iDEN's push-to-talk technology despite confirmation from Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) that the carrier will eventually shut down its iDEN network. 

SouthernLINC CEO Bob Dawson told FierceWireless the regional carrier's customers, who are all iDEN subscribers, continue to find value in the technology. "It meets the needs of the people who live, work and play in this footprint," he said.

However, he added that he expects Sprint's gradual departure from the iDEN market to increase handset prices. "I would guess if you had less scale then we would have to adapt to something higher," he said. "Would it be helpful in our commercial business? I don't think so." However, he said customers--ranging from utility workers to public safety workers--value the wide-area network coverage of iDEN as well as the ability to immediately get in touch with large numbers of people, and that hard-core iDEN users will stay attached to the technology "with some reasonable increase in the price of handsets."

Motorola is also confident in the technology. The company and NII Holdings announced on Wednesday an agreement to extend Motorola's supply of iDEN infrastructure to NII for three more years. NII has operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru, and provides wireless services operating under the Nextel brand in Latin America.

"Motorola is pleased with today's announcement regarding the extended iDEN contract with NII Holdings, which is based on our strong commitment to iDEN technology," Motorola spokeswoman Therese Van Ryne told FierceWireless. "We have no comment on Sprint's future plans."

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told FierceWireless Wednesday that the company will gradually shutter its iDEN network. Hesse did not give any firm end date for shutting down the iDEN network, which Sprint acquired in its $35 billion merger with Nextel in 2004.

"Over time, we'll have fewer and fewer customers on the iDEN network," he said. "That allows us to use some of that capacity on the network that is freed up and use it for CDMA. It's a gradual process. There will be an end date for all 2G, just like there was an end date for 1G."

For more:
- see this Motorola/NII release

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