On Monday of this week, we published a story about Sprint ‘retuning’ its iDEN network. We pondered what retuning meant. We now have been given a few more details. An internal source from Sprint sent us information on a slide regarding iDEN decommissioning.
Retuning basically entails complete decommissioning of many iDEN sites. Basically the iDEN towers being removed from the network are excess capacity sites added many years ago when a much larger Nextel iDEN network was planned for. With the removal of many iDEN sites, the remaining sites will need to be “retuned” to increase coverage area to try to capture the same square mileage. This is the cause of why indoor performance may suffer, because a lot of signal overlap that exists today will be lost. And many users may find themselves farther from a signal, that by the time they get indoors they are sufficiently far enough away that the signal could be unusable or nonexistent. And these customers will be able to get out of their contracts, ETF free.
Sprint will begin decommissioning these excess iDEN sites in the New Orleans area at the end of February at the conclusion of Mardi Gras. This will be the test market for this decommissioning plan. Then after NOLA’s iDEN is retuned, they will take that information nationwide and begin decommissioning iDEN towers in the rest of the country in April.
CNS (Custom Network Solution) donor sites and towers deemed critical for potential disaster recovery efforts will not be decommissioned. Sprint listed one of the chief reasons for the early decommissioning of these excess sites is to reduce operating costs and allow Sprint to be more competitive.
Sprint is also creating an “iDEN War Room” to support the iDEN Decommissioning project. This War Room will handle customer service fallout resulting from the significant iDEN network upheaval that is anticipated.
Even though this transition is welcome news (except by perhaps iDEN customers), it sadly doesn’t sound like it includes any 800MHz refarming for post Network Vision uses, like 1xA voice and LTE carriers. Many of us were excited at this possibility. But now our hopes are dashed for the near future.
But no matter how you slice it, the end of iDEN is nigh!