Sprint announces decommissioning plans and network vision progress

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Sprint Nextel is planning to erase all traces of its iDEN network by the end of June 2013. The company has hired Goodman Networks, Overland Contracting, Pyramid Network Services and WesTower Communications to negotiate lease terminations, remove and either recycle or reuse any equipment, and restore the former cell sites, including removing any towers or other structures.

The process is expected to be completed by the time Sprint shuts down its iDEN network. According to a Sprint spokesperson in response to questions from FierceMobileIT, the iDEN sites will not be repurposed for LTE or any other use. Sprint plans to repurpose its 800 MHz spectrum for LTE, and in the process plans to implement a more energy-efficient network and reduce the impact of its networking equipment on the environment.

"After a thorough RFP process, Sprint has selected the best suppliers to cost-effectively hit our milestones for site shutdown, enabling the company to exit from those locations at a minimum cost," said John Harrison, vice president of network supplier performance management in a prepared statement. "In addition, we have taken extra care in selecting these suppliers to ensure our industry-leading green standards are maintained."

Sprint plans to shut down and eliminate about 9600 iDEN sites before the end of 2012. Existing iDEN customers are being migrated to Sprint's Direct Connect service. The new service adds broadband capabilities to the familiar push-to-talk functionality of the old iDEN service.

iDEN and the original Nextel network has been widely used by a number of industries where reliable communications is a necessity. Prominent among those are first responders and other emergency services as well as the construction industry.

According to a Sprint statement, decommissioning iDEN is a major milestone for its Network Vision plan which is intended to improve the network experience with better voice quality, faster data speeds, greater network flexibility and reduced operating costs. It's likely that much of the savings and improved experience will be the result of removing obsolete equipment from service and replacing it with more modern and more efficient equipment, and also by being able to offer LTE on Sprint's network.

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