Looks like the Motorola i1 Android set (not pictured above) will stand as the highest-end Nextel phone ever -- Sprint just announced that it's phasing out the iDEN network sometime in 2013 as it begins a new four to five billion dollar network enhancement project called "Network Vision." We've expected this for a while -- the Sprint / Nextel merger has been beset by subscriber losses and rumors of a breakup for years now -- but this is the first time we've gotten a date. Sprint's rolling out push-to-talk on its own network to support its 10.6 million Nextel customers, but we don't have a schedule for that yet. Sprint's also announcing vendors for Network Vision: Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung, and Ericsson will each handle a region and be tasked with expanding and fortifying Sprint's existing 1900MHz 3G network while buying 800MHz, 1900MHz, and 2.5GHz spectrum for future use. Interestingly, Sprint's definitely hedging its WiMAX bets a little -- it can upgrade its new gear to LTE with swapping in a baseband card and issuing a software patch, which certainly gives the company some 4G flexibility should Clearwire not pull things together. We'll see what happens -- the underdog's making some moves.

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Sprint phasing out Nextel's iDEN network, selects vendors for $5b network upgrade project