Sprint(s S) has officially started the countdown for taking its Nextel iDEN network offline: T-minus 13 months and 2 days. Sprint plans to turn off the Nextel network’s key push-to-talk Direct Connect capabilities as soon as June 30, 2013, effectively shutting down all iDEN services.
Sprint said it has already stopped selling some Nextel devices, and in the next few months it will discontinue its iDEN phone portfolio completely. In two days it will send out notices to its core government and business customers warning them of the pending deadline, and it said it will work with all of its Nextel and Boost Mobile iDEN customers to transition them over to its CDMA network, over which it has recreated the walk-talkie-style Direct Connect service.
Though Sprint may keep the iDEN systems going after the deadline if the migration to CDMA is slower than it anticipates, it probably won’t take too long to fully sunset the network since it has big plans for the spectrum it uses. Sprint wants to launch additional CDMA and LTE systems over iDEN’s 800 MHz spectrum. On Friday, it received permission from the Federal Communications Commission to use those frequencies for LTE, which was the carrier’s final obstacle to refarming its Nextel airwaves for 4G in 2014.
Sprint is already shutting down Nextel sites in several markets, though it is mainly culling cities of excess capacity, not turning off the network completely. It has launched a mapping tool that shows customers which sites are scheduled for decommissioning and when.
Image courtesy of Nikhil Verma.