Overland Park, Kan. -
will begin next year to combine its separate CDMA and iDEN networks to improve CDMA coverage, phase out its iDEN service, and save billions in annual operating costs.
Construction of the combined network will start in 2001 and take three to five years.
The iDEN phase-out is targeted to begin in 2013 and continue through 2017. Sprint sells iDEN handsets and service under the Nextel brand and iDEN prepaid service under the Boost Mobile brand.
The carrier also plans next year to begin offering iDEN-like sub-second push-to-talk (PTT) connections over its CDMA network, making it possible to sell 3G phones for the first time with iDEN PTT performance. The company also plans to expand its CDMA PTT service with such features as push-to-social-network service. Sprint already offers CDMA phones with a QChat PTT feature whose setup time is slower than iDEN's.
"We're seeing an increasing need from out push-to-talk customers for high-speed data capabilities," said Steve Elfman, Sprint network operations and wholesale president.
To improve CDMA coverage, mainly in-building coverage, Sprint will extend its CDMA network spectrum from the 1900MHz band to include the iDEN-network 800MHz band. Given that iDEN operates in the lower portions of the 800MHz band, today's dual-band 800/1900MHz CDMA phones won't operate on the Sprint's 800MHZ CDMA network, requiring new phones to take advantage of the additional spectrum.
To combine its separate iDEN and CDMA networks, the company will adopt multimode base stations that enable multiple wireless technologies such as iDEN and CDMA to broadcast from the same cell site. The multimode base stations, however, also position Sprint to add future wireless technologies such as 4G LTE and 4G 2.5GHz WiMax, the company said.
Sprint currently resells WiMAX service available through wholesale partner Clearwire, which Sprint partially owns. But the multimode base stations provide "a good opportunity to network share [with Clearwire] if we so choose," a spokesman said.