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Sprint iDEN teardown advances with vendor picks

Wed, 06/13/2012 - 2:38pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

With just a year to go before it turns off its iDEN network, Sprint is working to keep the decommissioning on track with the hiring of four contractors who will handle the logistics of shutting down cell sites.

Sprint plans to take 9,600 iDEN sites off the air before the end of the third quarter and has already shut down more than 1,900 sites.

The operator said Tuesday it has signed agreements with Goodman Networks, Pyramid Network Services, WesTower Communications and Black & Veatch construction affiliate Overland Contracting to do the heavy lifting for the iDEN retirement.

The suppliers will negotiate lease termination agreements, restore cell site compounds, and remove Sprint network equipment for reuse or recycling.

The contracts "underscore Sprint’s commitment to decommissioning the iDEN network swiftly and efficiently," Sprint said.

The iDEN network is scheduled to cease operations as early as June 30. The 800 MHz spectrum left over from the service will be incorporated into Sprint’s LTE network, currently running on its 1900 MHz holdings.

Customers using the legacy push-to-talk service are being moved to Sprint's Direct Connect service, a CDMA-based push-to-talk service launched last October. Direct Connect will eventually have a much larger footprint than the iDEN network it is replacing, covering 2.7 million square miles, including 1XRTT and roaming coverage.

International Direct Connect service to Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Chile went live this spring.

Sprint stopped selling iDEN devices on its website last week and is removing them from retail stores. The company has not provided an update on whether it will continue to sell PowerSource devices using both iDEN and CDMA.

So far, just five Direct Connect devices have been launched by Sprint. The latest addition, the Kyocera DuraXT, made its appearance this week. Other Direct Connect devices include the Kyocera DuraCore, Kyocera DuraPlus, the Motorola Admiral and the Kyocera DuraMax. The DuraMax, the first phone to launch with Direct Connect, is not currently listed for sale on Sprint's website.

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