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Sprint commits to iDEN, Moto rejoices

James Middleton

November 4, 2008

2 Min Read
Sprint commits to iDEN, Moto rejoices

US mobile operator and WiMAX pioneer, Sprint, said it intends to rejuvenate its ageing iDEN network after failing to find a buyer for the unit.

The carrier, which acquired the iDEN network along with Nextel in 2005, said it has extended its long term partnership with Motorola, the creator of the proprietary push to talk technology.

This is good news for Moto, which at the moment could do with all the help it can get, as well as for Sprint Nextel’s declining iDEN subscriber base, until now left without an upgrade path.

As part of the rejuvenation process, Moto will provide enhanced network and infrastructure support, including software upgrades, and Sprint will provide new products and services to customers. Already this week, Sprint Nextel has launched the Motorola i576, and later this year will debut the BlackBerry Curve 8350i smartphone. The operator plans to launch a total of eight new Nextel Direct Connect handsets as part of its new device portfolio in 2009, with five expected to launch during the first half of the year.

Until recently, Sprint had decided to mothball its iDEN network and hive off the assets in favour of concentrating on its Mobile WiMAX rollout under the Xohm brand and its partnership with Clearwire. As recently as last month, Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel CEO, said there was “significant interest” in Nextel from potential buyers.

In 2005, Sprint purchased Nextel for $36bn, but it is believed that the mobile operator was entertaining bids as low as $5.4bn for the iDEN business unit. Nextel’s reputation for poor customer support, along with an ageing infrastructure and Sprint’s mounting debt pile all combined to drive down Nextel’s value.

“The iDEN network is a key differentiator for Sprint, as it allows us to offer products and services no other carrier in the industry can match. We continue to build on our support for our industry-leading push-to-talk Nextel Direct Connect franchise through our aggressive marketing efforts which exploit the unique features and functionality of the iDEN network,” said Hesse.

Boost Mobile, Sprint’s prepaid business operating on Nextel’s iDEN and nationwide CDMA networks, is also being refocused to compete aggressively for customers by introducing a lower per minute rate and other pricing options. In early 2009, Boost Mobile plans to introduce Boost Unlimited on the iDEN network, offering a nationwide home calling area for one monthly fee.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of telecoms.com | Follow him @telecomsjames

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