Sprint to Begin iDEN Phase-Out in 2013 (12/7/10)
Tuesday, December 07, 2010 | Comments

Sprint unveiled its Network Vision blueprint to deploy a cost-effective, innovative network plan to further enhance voice quality and data speeds for customers across the United States. The plan is expected to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network and will see its iDEN network phased out beginning in 2013.

Sprint awarded contracts to Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung to implement multimode technology to enhance coverage, quality and speed; create network flexibility; reduce operating costs; and improve environmental sustainability. The scope of the contracts includes purchases of hardware, software and services.

Sprint uses separate equipment to deploy services on 800 MHz spectrum, 1.9 GHz spectrum, and through its relationship with Clearwire, 2.5 GHz spectrum. Under the terms of the new contracts, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung will install new network equipment and software that brings together multiple spectrum bands, or airwaves, on a single, multimode base station.

The base stations will allow for the flexibility to offer new technologies using any of the 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz or 2.5 GHz bands, as well as other spectrum bands. Sprint and the three companies expect to finalize the implementation schedule and begin the first stages of deployment in 2011. Completion of the integration across the Sprint network is expected to take from three to five years.

In addition to implementing multimode base stations, the Sprint Network Vision plan encompasses next-generation push-to-talk (PTT) with broadband capabilities and the integration of multimode chipsets into smart phones, tablets and other broadband devices, including machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities. Sprint expects to launch the next-generation of PTT services in 2011 on the CDMA network, offering customers sub-second call setup time along with robust data capabilities. Officials said they expect that iDEN cell sites will be phased out, beginning in 2013.

Sprint intends to repurpose some of its 800 MHz spectrum for CDMA service, thereby enhancing coverage, particularly the in-building experience for customers. Augmenting its 1.9 GHz footprint with 800 MHz, Sprint expects its CDMA coverage density will increase throughout the country. More density generally equates to fewer dropped calls and a more seamless network experience for customers.

“We’re seeing an increasing need from our push-to-talk customers for high-speed data capabilities," said Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale for Sprint. “Marrying the industry’s only sub-second PTT call setup with broadband data directly supports our customers’ needs and creates an unmatched offering in the market. Additionally, we fully expect a competitively priced line-up of rugged handsets and smart phones on the CDMA network.”

The total estimated incremental cost of the program during the deployment period is between $4 billion and $5 billion. Sprint estimates the total net financial benefit for a seven-year period to be between $10 billion and $11 billion. Cost savings are expected to come from capital efficiencies, reducing energy costs, lowering roaming expenses, backhaul savings and the eventual reduction in total cell sites.

The nation’s geography will be covered among Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung on a market-by-market basis. Several of the markets for each company include the following:

• Alcatel-Lucent: New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C./Baltimore and Los Angeles

• Ericsson: Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Kansas City metropolitan area and Dallas

• Samsung: Chicago, Denver, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle

 

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