The old Nextel iDEN network is officially off the air: Sprint shut it down yesterday at 12:01 a.m. in each respective timezone where the iDEN network existed. This means that any customers who still have an iDEN device have lost all cell service, including access to to 911 emergency services; in total, 20,000 sites were turned off. And while most customers have already migrated over to Sprint’s CDMA service, or switched carriers altogether, a few stragglers did remain behind on iDEN, although Sprint declined to release exact numbers (1.3 million customers remained on the network in March 2013).
As most of you probably remember, Sprint purchased Nextel in 2005 for $35 billion, and was subsequently tasked with maintaining two incompatible networks for the next eight years. Most analysts, experts, and everyday people like you and me consider Sprint’s handling of the acquisition as a complete disaster, and the company ultimately lost millions of dollars by maintaining a massive network for a shrinking number of customers.
In spite of this rocky history, today is a day to celebrate: Sprint is now free to refarm Nextel’s old 800MHz spectrum for LTE, which will provide stronger signals in buildings and faster data transfer speeds across Sprint’s network. With a cash infusion from Softbank expected later this summer, I think it’s everyone’s hope that Sprint will finally be able to turn itself around, improve its network, and finish deploying LTE in the best possible spectrum spaces available.[Wall Street Journal] Thanks, Bill!