Sprint to charge iDEN subs $10 if they don't upgrade to CDMA

Starting Jan. 1 Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will begin charging Nextel iDEN customers who have not upgraded to Sprint's CDMA push-to-talk service an extra $10 per month. The step is being taken as Sprint continues to move toward the shutdown of the iDEN network by June 30, 2013.

Sprint confirmed to Phone Scoop that it has been notifying iDEN customers of the impending price change. The charge will hit Nextel iDEN and PowerSource customers for each month their service remains active until June 30; the charge will not apply to CDMA customers. "Customers that migrate prior to January will likely find a price plan comparable to what they have now," Sprint spokesperson Mark Bonavia told Phone Scoop. "They are also eligible to receive a variety of very attractive device offers."

The nation's No. 3 carrier is shutting down its iDEN network as part of its massive Network Vision network modernization plan. A major feature of iDEN is the network's push-to-talk service. Thus, to ease customers' transition, Sprint recently launched its CDMA Direct Connect PTT service, powered by Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). Sprint said the CDMA service offers similar PTT speeds as its iDEN network with triple coverage.

In the third quarter Sprint was able to recapture 59 percent of leaving postpaid Nextel customers and move them to its CDMA network, just below the recapture rate of 60 percent in the second quarter. As time passes though, Sprint expects that rate to decline.

As part of Network Vision, Sprint deployed LTE on its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. The company in 2014 plans to launch LTE on the 800 MHz spectrum currently reserved for its iDEN service. Sprint also is upgrading its CDMA network, and plans to deploy CDMA 1X Advanced voice services on its 800 MHz spectrum.

Other carriers have been trying to capture leaving iDEN subscribers. Most notably, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has gone after them with its new Enhanced Push-to-Talk offering. Earlier this month AT&T formally launched the service, which can run on its LTE network. AT&T said its Enhanced PTT offering will cost $5 per month when added to existing AT&T voice and data plans or $30 per month for a PTT-only rate plan (no voice or non-PTT data included). Both plans include unlimited PTT, and data used by the Enhanced PTT application will not count against a customer's monthly data totals.

For more:
- see this Phone Scoop article

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