May 29, 2012

Sprint Sets End Date For 2G NEXTEL Network

Within a year, Sprint plans to sunset its iDEN Nextel National Network, and roll it into Sprint Direct Connect. Sprint will notify and transition its customers on the legacy network. The wireless carrier seeks to shutter the iDEN Nextel National Network as early as June 30, 2013.

On June 1, 2012, Sprint will send written notices to business and government customers to let them know of the planned shutdown of the iDEN Nextel National Network. Businesses will be asked to transition to the Sprint Direct Connect, a push-to-talk service that operates on Sprint's 3G CSMA network.

While customers will, by default, switch to a 3G network, the move away from the legacy 2G network is a step toward Sprint's building of its 4G LTE technology network.

The closure of its 2G network means the end of Nextel's services, a company Sprint acquired in 2004 for a reported $35 billion. The merger started a troubled time for Sprint, and the move toward 4G LTE technology networks is likely a bid to move to a better time for the company.

"Many have been wondering when Sprint would shut down Nextel almost from the acquisition," says analyst Jeff Kagan. "At the time of the acquisition I thought it made about as much sense as other mergers. However mergers have to prove themselves. "Nextel was like the Model-T. It was an innovative car at one time, but the times moved past it."

Nextel was an attractive proposition for Sprint, back when the merger took place, because of its business-heavy customer base. However the wireless landscape quickly changed after the papers were signed. "In this case, when the merger was done the wireless industry still looked like it had always looked. Shortly after the merger the wireless industry changed toward smartphones with the Apple iPhone and Google Android leading the charge," says Kagan.

Sprint's acquisition didn't provide enough support for the time to come. Kagan remarked," Suddenly there was increased demand for Apps and other features that Nextel just didn't do."

The Sprint Direct Connect network was launched by Sprint in October last year. The service provides broadband data capabilities, push-to-talk features, and offers rugged handset options. Sprint continues to broaden its Direct Connect coverage. Sprint has introduced four rugged Sprint Direct Connect handsets with the signature push-to-talk features including the Kyocera DuraMax, Kyocera DuraCore, Kyocera DuraPlus and Motorola Admiral.

Handsets are one area where Sprint is growing its network; territory is another. While Sprint is expanding its Sprint Direct Connect services throughout the nation, it also expanded to reach other countries with International Direct Connect. Countries with coverage include Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile.

Sprint said it plans to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network, with the goal of increasing efficiency and enhancing network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers. It did not say whether this consolidation, Network Vision, will require a future shift away from Sprint Direct Connect, or whether it will encompass the 3G network it's transitioning many of its customers to within the next year.

"So shutting down this Nextel drag on the company makes sense. What doesn't make as much sense is why it took Sprint so long to pull the trigger. And in fact the trigger won't be pulled until next year," Kagan says. "But at least they are moving in the right direction. At a craw perhaps, but in the right direction."


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