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Sprint kicks off iDEN shutdown with vendor selection

Sprint Nextel said it inked deals with Goodman Networks, Overland Contracting (a construction affiliate of Black & Veatch), Pyramid Network Services and WesTower Communications to decommission the company's iDEN network. Sprint didn't disclose the financial terms of the contracts, but said the vendors would negotiate iDEN lease termination agreements, restore cell site areas and remove Sprint network equipment for re-use or recycling.

Sprint last month announced it would take 9,600 iDEN sites offline by the end of the third quarter, and would completely turn off its iDEN network as soon as June 30, 2013. The shutdown of the iDEN network, which Sprint has been discussing since late 2010, is one piece of its Network Vision upgrade, which centers on the deployment of new, multi-mode base stations.

As part of the upgrade, Sprint plans to deploy LTE first in its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum and then later on the 800 MHz spectrum currently reserved for iDEN service. Sprint will also be upgrading its 3G network, reducing roaming and energy costs and deploying 1X Advanced voice services on its 800 MHz spectrum.

Sprint currently outsources the day-to-day operations of its network to Ericsson . The primary vendors for Sprint's Network Vision upgrade are Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung.

The main draw of iDEN was Direct Connect, a push-to-talk service targeted at business users that supported walkie-talkie style conversations. Sprint is currently working to migrate its 6 million iDEN users onto its CDMA network, where it recently launched a refreshed PTT service developed by Sprint and Qualcomm. Sprint said its new Direct Connect service, which rides on its 1900 MHz spectrum, offers improved in-building coverage and will triple the square-mile reach of its current iDEN-based PTT service. 

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