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Sprint sets sunset date for Nextel network

Sprint will kill off its iDEN network on June 30 next year as it moves customers over to its Direct Connect service.

Sprint Nextel set a firm date on when it will kill off the Nextel part of its business.

The carrier said today that it would completely shut off its Nextel network, which uses a technology called iDEN best known for its walkie-talkie capability, on June 30, 2013. The company will begin alerting customers on Sunday.

The date marks the end of troubled era in Sprint's history, a period in which the company struggled to integrate the Nextel assets after an ill-fated merger between the two wireless giants. The phasing out of iDEN is part of Sprint's larger Network Vision plan, which is an overhaul of its existing network and move to 4G LTE technology.

Nextel, despite being a 2G technology largely useful for talk and text messaging, continues to have a rabidly loyal following among those in the construction, public safety, and enterprise areas. Sprint has spent the last few years catering to these customers with a handful of iDEN devices, but has recently opted to stop offering such products.

Instead, Sprint has been pushing customers to Sprint Direct Connect handsets, which offer the same kind of push-to-talk capability of an iDEN phone. Sprint has previously attempted to make this push, but the technology wasn't ready, and the split-second communication capability hadn't matured on CDMA yet.

Over the past eight months, Sprint unveiled four rugged Sprint Direct Connect handsets, including the DuraMax, DuraCore, and DuraPlus from Kyocera, and the Motorola Admiral. The carrier said it expects to broaden coverage of Direct Connect this year.

Sprint said it would begin transitioning business and government customers off of Nextel and on to Sprint Direct Connect. The company added that it will provide favorable offers designed to drive migration to its Sprint network.