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Summary:

It’s no secret that Sprint plans to shut down its iDEN network in 2013, but until recently the details of how it would sunset it were a secret. Over the weekend, new maps appeared on the Sprint website that identify the individual cell sites being decommissioned.

iDEN Nextel network New Orleans

It’s no secret that Sprint plans to shut down its iDEN network in 2013, leaving millions of Nextel and Boost Mobile customers to find new phones and service providers, but until recently the details of how it would sunset its aging push-to-talk systems were a secret. Over the weekend, blog Sprint 4G Rollout spotted a new Nextel landing page on the Sprint website that doesn’t just identify the cities where its shutting off iDEN, but the individual cell sites. If you’re a Nextel or a Boost customer with hopes of sticking with the service for the next year, the site is worth checking out.

Sprint's iDEN network in New Orleans. The dark towers are slated for decommissioning

According to 4G Rollout, New Orleans is the first market on the list with its initial cell sites scheduled to go offline in February shortly after Mardi Gras. Sprint is going to gradually phasing out iDEN so New Orleans Boost and Nextel customers won’t emerge from Fat Tuesday hangovers with no service. But Sprint will pack up its base stations at multiple towers, while expanding nearby cells to fill the gaps.

The iDEN network is actually over-built, designed before the Sprint’s purchase of Nextel and the ensuing flight of millions of customers from its data-impaired networks. So there’s plenty of capacity left in Nextel’s urban networks to cope with a topological rescaling. However, any time you do this kind of network tinkering there will always be coverage holes. Some Nextel and Boost customers can expect their service to suffer, especially as Sprint gets into 2013 and starts shutting down sites en masse.

Outside of New Orleans, there’s not too much useful information since Sprint doesn’t appear to have identified any other specific cell sites scheduled for decommissioning. But you can click on individual sites in your city or town to see when Sprint plans to start its evaluation. For instance, in my city Chicago, all of the sites will likely be under review in June.

Sprint plans to use iDEN’s 800 MHz spectrum for supplemental capacity on its LTE network, which will launch mid-year. But the way Sprint is winnowing down iDEN that spectrum won’t be available until the full network goes dark. Sprint may be shutting down sites, but it’s still using the spectrum. It’s just covering more ground with fewer towers.

  1. Its my understanding that the iden network part is getting upgraded (which is a good thing) and ptt will still work, but on a different platform with better coverage and faster data. Whats wrong with that? So what if you have to upgrade the handset, customers want the better devices anyway. Not sure how this will force ptt customers to find anothet carrier when no other advanced ptt carrier exists.

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    1. Kevin Fitchard Tuesday, February 7, 2012

      Hi Jon,

      Actually the iDEN network is getting shut down. Sprint is reproducing PTT on its 3G and LTE networks, but I wouldn’t call it an upgrade. All attempts to replicate Motorola’s purpose-built push-to-talk technology over an IP channel have fallen flat.

      As for a new service provider, you’re right Nextel and Boost customers can switch over to the Sprint or Virgin side of the business (Sprint may even keep the Boost brand). The point I’m trying to make is iDEN is dying and the remaining customers will have to make a decision on what to do soon.

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  2. Sprint is actually doing a great job of minimizing customer frustration by shutting down specific towers that have the fewest minutes of use(MOU) and extended the range of the other towers until eventually migrating around 95% of nextel customers to sprint push to talk by the end of 2013….sooooo you might want to think twice before posting such a misleading statement especially if you just so happen to own stock with a competing carrier…..its a federal offense….

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  3. Sprint needs to give long-term Nextel customers a healthy discount for 2 years to switch to Sprints version of the Ptt now! The sooner the customers get moving, the easier it will be. Virgin mobiles 1500 minute plan with 1000 text for each 30 day period will save you money. Its only 30 bucks!! Even without roaming Virgin mobile picks up better than Nextel. I have used all 3 Sprint is the best choice.

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    1. They are giving out phones for 97¢ for some models for.long term nextel customers. Call customer care to see if you qualify

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  4. Sprint has already shut down towers in my area as of 3 weeks ago. They are trying to get customers to switch over to sprint. Sprint is using the 1xx network on the ppt. Also the coverage map for it has more towers the. The iden network.

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  5. The main reason I have the Nextel phones is because they are the only ones I have ever found that are made for people with a hearing disability. The ear speakers are large and plenty loud for me. What am I to do after they shut it down??? Anybody got any ideas?

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