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Sprint runs through shutdown of Nextel iDEN network

Carrier, meanwhile, is preparing for its move to 4G LTE with multiple devices, and says performance for the network exceeds expectations.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read
Sprint SVP of Network, Bob Azzi, speaking at CTIA 2012.
Sprint SVP for networks, Bob Azzi, speaks at CTIA 2012. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

NEW ORLEANS--Sprint Nextel is preparing to bid adieu to the Nextel side of the business.

Sprint executives today ran through its Network Vision upgrade plan, which includes the decommissioning of its Nextel iDEN network. The company has already shut down 1,900 cellular sites and plans to turn off 9,600 sites by the end of the third quarter, Bob Azzi, senior vice president for networks at the company, said here today. The entire network will go dark by the middle of the second half of next year, he added.

By shutting down its Nextel network, Sprint can reuse the spectrum to augment its existing CDMA and 4G LTE networks. Improvements in 3G and the move to 4G are part of the company's broader overhaul of its network, designed to keep the company competitive with its larger rivals, which are already off to the races with their 4G LTE deployments.

Nextel's looming demise will close a rough chapter in Sprint's history. Sprint acquired Nextel in 2005 in what is considered one of the worst handled deals in corporate America. Almost immediately after the deal was completed, the company found itself struggling to juggle both businesses, resulting in plunging profits and an exodus of customers.

The process of shutting down a cellular site includes turning off the radio, disconnecting the backhaul line, removing and disposing of the equipment, and restoring the site to its prior condition.

"At that point, we can walk away from the site," Azzi said during Sprint's Network Vision conference at the CTIA trade show.

The move to 4G LTE, meanwhile, is on track with six major markets scheduled by the end of the first half of the year. Sprint executives said the performance, latency, throughput, and resiliency exceeds expectations.

"The technology works," Azzi said.

Fared Adib, vice president of product and devices for Sprint, reiterated the company's plan to launch 15 LTE-compatible devices this year. The company has already launched the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper, which will run on the planned future network.

A majority of the devices will be phones, Adib said, with handsets running on the LTE and CDMA networks. He added that only hot spots will have the capability to run on LTE, CDMA, and WiMax. Devices that are able to run on CDMA and WiMax will continue to be sold through the year, he said.

Catch all the latest news from CTIA 2012.