Sprint said on Wednesday that is on track to turn off the Nextel iDEN network for good at the end of June. The company previously said it expected to decommission the network by the end of the second quarter.
The shutdown, which will begin on June 30, is part of Sprint's broader Network Vision plan, which includes an upgrade of its existing infrastructure and a move to 4G LTE. The company plans to use the spectrum from the Nextel network to power its 3G and 4G services.
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Nextel, however, boasts a loyal base of users that continue to cling to the service and its trademark push-to-talk walkie talkie feature despite more than a year of notice that the network would be shut down. Sprint said during its first-quarter report last week that 1 million users are still left on the service. The company has devoted much of its marketing and sales efforts toward retaining those customers and moving them on to the Sprint network.
Sprint said it has sent customer letters, legal notifications, and e-mail reminders about the shutdown. Sprint said it would use reminder text messages and "communications tactics" as it gets closer to the final days of operations."Our shutdown communications are meant to give customers more than enough lead time to plan their migration," said Bob Azzi, senior vice president of network operations for Sprint. "This has been especially important for public safety, first responders, health care users and others who rely on the service to protect and preserve people's lives. We strongly urge customers to migrate now, rather than wait until the last minute."
To entice Nextel users to jump over, Sprint offers phones with similar walke-talkie features, as well as a faster wireless connection and more coverage.
Sprint inherited the Nextel network as part of one of the most ill-conceived mergers in the telecom industry. When Sprint merged with Nextel, it was saddled with two incompatible networks and customer bases. The early days of the combined company saw gross mismanagement and neglect of the Nextel network, sparking a customer defection on that end that continues to this day.