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Sprint lays out strategy for iDEN sunset, refreshed CDMA network

Chris Ziegler
09.30.10
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CDMA2000 isn't getting any younger -- but it's a spring chicken compared to iDEN, a network that has remained the de facto standard for push-to-talk fanatics against all odds, surviving occasional challenges to the throne and Boost Mobile's desire to dip its toes in the CDMA waters from time to time over the past couple years. It can't live on forever, though, and Sprint's senior VP of networks has dropped some new knowledge this week on how it plans to address the issue. The crux of the strategy -- which spans seven to ten years on Sprint's roadmap -- involves deploying new base station equipment that will be considerably more flexible, capable of running anything from CDMA to WiMAX to LTE with little more than a software tweak, and increasing the power output on those base stations which will allow the company to reduce the total number of towers it operates and overcome some of the reduced building penetration seen in the higher frequencies. Somewhere along the way it'd like to move its iDEN customer base to a CDMA-based PTT solution -- something it already tried (and failed) with QChat -- and refresh its CDMA footprint with 1X Advanced, which is considerably more efficient for voice and should allow the company to generally make better use of its spectrum. With Sprint's relationship with Clearwire in a somewhat strange place right now, a robust network strategy that can survive on its own two feet if necessary seems like a wise idea -- and freeing up iDEN spectrum for more modern technologies is probably a good place to start.

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