Sprint has been planning to shut down its aging iDEN/Nextel network this summer and we now know exactly when it will happen. June 29th, 2013 will be the last full day of iDEN service and starting on June 30th, network technicians will begin shutting down the service and anyone with an iDEN phone will stop receiving voice and data service, including emergency calls to 911. If you still have an iDEN phone on the Nextel network, now is definitely the time to upgrade a new service!
Shutting down a nation-wide network isn't quite as simple as just flipping a switch. There are tens of thousands of cell sites housing everything necessary to run a cell tower that will have to be decommissioned and removed. Sprint is turning this into a giant recycling project and estimates that upwards of 100 million pounds of equipment will be recycled. That includes antennas, air conditioning equipment, batteries, cables, cellular radios, servers, racks and more. Even most of the cement buildings that house the equipment will be demolished and the rubble used for things like roads and bridges. Recycling the iDEN network is expected to last until early 2014 at which time it should be completed.
Out with the old, in with the new Once the old iDEN network is completely offline, Sprint will have two 5 MHz channels of free spectrum in the 800 MHz frequency band that it can then use for its new LTE network. Sprint is currently deploying its LTE network on a small G-Band that's adjacent to the 1900 MHz PCS band. Unfortunately, because Sprint is the only one using it, there is only one signal booster that currently supports Sprint 4G LTE, the Sleek 4G. Using the lower frequency for LTE will help Sprint overcome issues with higher frequencies like smaller coverage areas and less penetration into buildings.
At the end of April, Sprint's 4G LTE network covered 88 markets. AT&T continues to launch LTE in new markets and holds a solid second place with 261 markets. They plan to cover 300 million people with LTE by the end of 2013. The front runner in LTE coverage is Verizon which currently has 497 markets and is scheduled to complete the first phase roll-out this summer.