Sprint details plans to shut down iDEN cell sites

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) launched a website detailing how and when it will begin decommissioning iDEN cell sites around the country as part of its multibillion-dollar Network Vision network upgrade.

sprint iden cdma push to talk shutdown

Sprint's website offers details on its iDEN shutdown plan.

Sprint announced in late 2011 that would decommission its Nextel iDEN service on its 800 MHz spectrum beginning in 2013, the company has not detailed how this will occur. Now, it appears Sprint is offering a glimpse of how more than 250 Nextel markets across the country will be affected as Sprint progresses with its Network Vision plans. Sprint plans to eventually shut down push-to-talk service on its iDEN network; it hopes to migrate customers to advanced PTT services on its CDMA network. The company will then refarm is 800 MHz iDEN spectrum for advanced voice services as well as for LTE. 

"Sprint is in the process of reducing the number of Nextel towers and making other network modifications around the country," the company states on the site, nextelnetwork.sprint.com. "Sprint CDMA coverage will not change due to these actions." The site provides market-by-market maps, with markings for individual iDEN cell sites.

While most of the cell site modifications will begin this spring and move through the summer, some will begin earlier. For example, according to the site, Sprint will decommission around a dozen iDEN cell sites in New Orleans starting in late February (but will keep dozens more online for now). However, in many other markets where there are no towers specifically marked for decommissioning, Sprint states that "select towers in this area are under evaluation" and may be impacted.

Sprint spokesman Mark Bonavia told FierceWireless that the iDEN towers targeted with the reduction efforts are "excess capacity" cell sites added years ago when the Nextel subscriber base was much larger. Sprint has been steadily losing iDEN customers over the past few years.

Last fall Sprint launched its CDMA Direct Connect service, powered by a new solution from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), as part of its plan to migrate iDEN customers. Sprint said the new Direct Connect service, which rides on Sprint's 1900 MHz spectrum, offers improved in-building coverage and will triple the square-mile reach of its current iDEN-based PTT service. Specifically, Sprint said its new PTT offering will cover 2.7 million square miles and a population of 309 million (with the addition of 1XRTT and roaming coverage), up from the iDEN network's 908,370 square miles covering a population of 278 million.

For more:
- see this Sprint site
- see this The Verge article
- see this GigaOM post

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