Sprint Set to End Inglorious Nextel Era

by Matt Klassen on May 30, 2012

In just over a year from now Sprint Nextel will be no more, with Sprint announcing yesterday that it will officially be shutting down the Nextel segment of its business on June 30, 2013, finally putting the latter’s obsolete iDEN network to pasture.

For the last number of years, since the two companies entered into an ill-fated merger back in 2004, Sprint Nextel has been operating two separate networks, Sprint’s more popular CDMA and Nextel’s iDEN technology, best known for its walkie-talkie capability, the success of the former allowing for the continued existence of the latter. When the date finally arrives and Nextel effectively ceases to exist it will be the closing of a tumultuous chapter in Sprint’s history, as it’s been no secret that over the past 8 years the country’s third largest wireless carrier has struggled to integrate Nextel assets into its overall network development plan.

Further, with wireless telecommunications entering the era of 4G LTE, the writing was truly on the wall for Nextel’s antiquated iDEN interface anyways, dead weight that simply needed to be cut off in order to help Sprint streamline its next generation network.

Remember all those walkie-talkie phones that were popular about six or seven years ago; the ones that employed push to talk capabilities that allowed one user to communicate with multiple recipients? While I apologize for making you exercise your deep memory functions to try to remember something so antiquated and antique, it’s the sort of technology that Nextel is known for.

Now despite the fact that Nextel’s iDEN assets are exclusively 2G technology, a veritable horse and buggy in this modern wireless age, the walkie-talkie functions of the technology have found a large niche market among those in construction, public safety, and certain enterprise areas, places where one centralized user needs to quickly and effectively communicate with a large group of people.

In an effort to cater to this demographic (and attempt to utilize its Nextel assets), over the past few years Sprint has gone out of its way to create a select few iDEN devices, handsets that, for all intents and purposes, had no commercial appeal. Alas, Sprint recently discontinued the development of such iDEN devices, further evidence that the end of Nextel would soon be drawing near.

For those still infatuated with iDEN’s push-to-talk capabilities, don’t fret, Sprint still has a plan for you, pushing its iDEN customers towards the company’s new Direct Connect handsets, which offer the same walkie-talkie functionality of the previous generation but on the company’s CDMA 3G network (once again assuring that iDEN fans won’t ever have to worry about being on the bleeding edge of communication technology).

So, with a firm date for the shut down of its Nextel business now set, the intervening year will be spent transitioning customers away from the technology to something newer (and likely more expensive) as we all prepare to say goodbye to yet another long time communications mainstay.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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