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Sprint To Shut Down Nextel iDEN Network Next Year

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the take-it-out-to-the-barn dept.

Communications 53

Stephenmg writes "Sprint will be shutting down their iDEN network from its merger with Nextel and will migrate users to Push to Talk over CDMA. It will then use the 800mhz frequency to build out its LTE network. From the article: 'Sprint has been decommissioning iDEN base stations as part of its methodical transition to Network Vision, a flexible infrastructure intended to accommodate both the carrier's 3G CDMA technology and its emerging 4G LTE system. About one-third of the iDEN radios are scheduled to be removed by the end of this year. The iDEN system only offers downstream speeds below 100K bps (bits per second), a trickle compared with the multiple megabits per second available from LTE and from WiMax, Sprint's current 4G technology, which is provided by Clearwire. One major benefit to Sprint from shutting down iDEN will be the ability to reuse its 800MHz frequencies for the Sprint LTE network, which a U.S. Federal Communications Commission ruling last week made possible. The LTE service is scheduled to launch in the middle of this year on another spectrum band and later expand to 800MHz.'"

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I'm not surprised. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151429)

I have a friend who works for a comms contracting firm who has been walking the corn-fields of northeastern and central indiana the last month (and will be for the next few) doing microwave pathing surveys to support the high-bandwidth backhauls required for the sprint LTE build-out.

His normally pasty white backside is TAN now!

Re:I'm not surprised. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151483)

And his cornhole has been stretched out by some big black cock, too.

Re:I'm not surprised. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151509)

I think that was implied.

Re:I'm not surprised. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151513)

Yeah your mom gurgled that she was planning to vacation there, right after I jizzed in her mouth.

Re:I'm not surprised. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151485)

His normally pasty white backside is TAN now!

I dont want to know how that happened, or how you happened to know.

Middle of this year? (4, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151499)

So Friday? two weeks? Or maybe the "middle of the second half?"

You would think, if it was coming out soon, you would hear more about it..

Re:Middle of this year? (5, Interesting)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151549)

I heard about it. I used to be a Boost Mobile customer with a GSM phone that ran off of Nextel towers. I got a message they were going to be working on the towers and that I needed to get a CDMA phone. Sure enough a few weeks later my service dropped in the dirt. I didn't mind buying a new phone the old one was 3 years old and my wife wanted a smart phone. I purchased a new phone and walla! still no service. I drove all over the neighborhood and still not one damn bar. It worked great everywhere around town but not in my house where my wife makes 90 percent of her calls. She's now the proud owner of a new AT&T Samsung android type smartphone. They upgraded me right off their network. It was nice while it lasted.

Re:Middle of this year? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151593)

In the article it says as early as June 2013, but I guess nobody read it.. :)

Re:Middle of this year? (5, Informative)

satsuke (263225) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151777)

Small point of clarification here -- Nextel never used GSM, they have only ever used iden. iden had sim cards like GSM and the backend / MSC "felt" like GSM, but the air interface -- the shoveling of bits across the air between tower and handset, have always been IDEN.

It's also worth pointing out that nextel used what is called the SMR band .. ~800mhz. This frequency typically propagates further than the 1900mhz the rest of Sprint is operating on, so it is entirely possible for the new phone tower in the same location wouldn't reach you, while an iden at 800mhz would.

Walla (3, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40153653)

The word you're looking for is "voilà." (From the French, "see there.")

Re:Walla (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40154619)

I always imagine the "Walla!" people saying it like "Holla!"

Re:Walla (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158725)

Nice. That's what I love about slashdot. My vocabulary is constantly being improved.

Re:Walla (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40166109)

That's what I love about slashdot. My vocabulary is constantly being improved.

Yes -- if not by the comment, then by the characterizations of the commenter that come to mind.

Re:Middle of this year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40157799)

Boost mobile ran off the CDMA towers, not iDEN, from what I remember (I used to work in a Sprint call center). You could have tried to get Airave, but unfortunately even that's not guaranteed to work. I have heard of it working great for some users, however. The only downside to Airave was that you had to pay $100 for the device. If you ever have this problem in the future, call the call center, and have the representative put in a ticket for this. One ticket won't really make a difference, but when you have multiple tickets for the same location, it catches their attention so they can do something about it.

Re:Middle of this year? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158745)

It depends which phone you have. Some ran off Sprint towers and some off Nextel towers. My original phone was not CDMA.

Re:Middle of this year? (4, Informative)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151869)

I have already seen a few iDEN towers go offline. They are sending a letter to iDEN customers June 1, 2012 telling them to move to CDMA phones (I have one and it works great, much better PTT). The iDEN network will cease to exist as early as June 30, 2013. As June 30, 2013 approaches, customers will get even more notifications. []

Re:Middle of this year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152373)

So Friday? two weeks? Or maybe the "middle of the second half?"

You would think, if it was coming out soon, you would hear more about it..

If you look online they have taken off all Iden phones on there website! You only see them offer Sprint Direct Connect which uses the CDMA network. People who need the Iden phones to use the Nextel Direct Connect need to be worried. Places like Mexico is on the Iden network.

Re:Middle of this year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152441)

I talked to sprint worldwide. They are saying you will continue to use Iden until end of 2012. You can contact them at:

Sprint / Nextel Worldwide Care (Inside the US): 888-226-7212

Sprint / Nextel Worldwide Care (Outside the US): +1-817-698-4199

Non-fubar enterprise text messaging? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40151543)

Pain and woe to anyone who has relied on the nextel messaging system for any enterprise automated dispatch system and has not moved to either another provider or a better way to dispatch, such as an instant messaging server, by June of next year. The chance that Sprint will make their enterprise MMS/SMS to email gateway "not" fubar messages beyond any usefullness is pretty slim.

Re:Non-fubar enterprise text messaging? (-1, Flamebait)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151619)

cry me a river. you haven't a clue. get a phone less than 5 years old.

Re:Non-fubar enterprise text messaging? (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40154219)

Yes because filling our dumps with a few more tons of working hardware is wonderful...for the Chinese that make the phones and the telecos that get to sell more contracts. Not so good for the environment though.

Re:Non-fubar enterprise text messaging? (1)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40155011)

We have to move forward. The main reason is efficient use of spectrum.

Modern protocols can squeeze a lot more data into each MHz of spectrum than older ones.

If we followed your philosophy, we'd still have a huge part of the band wasted on AMPS, which is about as inefficient as you can get! (AM audio)

Re:Non-fubar enterprise text messaging? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152721)

If you send it to the message gets sent as an MMS as isn't fubar AFAICT, the email must also have only one recipient or it gets flagged as spam by the gateway (T-Mobile was the same). We send all the pages from our enterprise monitoring tools out this way and I have no issues receiving the messages.

Misty water-colored memories... (4, Interesting) (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151591)

This takes me back. My first data-capable phone was a Motorola on Nextel's network. It was also my first "nationwide" phone where all of my services were included in my plan no matter where I was. If I got a signal, I was on my home network. No more roaming! And I had data service at a blazing 9600 bits per second thru the proprietary serial cable. I'm trying to remember if I needed my own dialup ISP to get the Jornada 690 online or if that was included in Nextel's data service. Can't remember. It was 12 years ago.

I'm a little surprised there are still iDEN phones in the wild.

Re:Misty water-colored memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152003)

FWIW: It was included in your plan, should have been like Sprint and some *XX combination.

Re:Misty water-colored memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152139)

I'm a little surprised there are still iDEN phones in the wild.

data was included, and later phones even got twice the bitrate!

Some folks I knew (as of a couple years ago, anyhow) used iDEN phones with N800s and such for the unlimited 19.2kb/s internet connection (over bluetooth -- no proprietary cable!). Apparently some internet radio streams are/were available below that, web browsing with compressing/stripping proxies was (to them) bearably slow, and it could work ok for fetching Google (et al.) map tiles on the fly. Really, for as little as $3.50 a month (IIRC), it wasn't a bad deal, but in 2009, I had a good deal more money and/or less patience.

Re:Misty water-colored memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40153617)

I have similar memories of how Nextel taught me what to love and hate in phones and carriers. My wife was meeting me on my fifth and final trip to Paris and the only way I knew to keep in touch was to use our hideous international Nextel phones. At $1.69/min on each end, our conversation to coordinate was SHORT. But it worked!

I also only paid for cross market 2-way on my phone, so I would alert her then she would alert me and then I would initiate a 2-way. So long as she responded fast enough, it was like adding unlimited voice minutes for $5/mo.

We also used to use her i88s as a GPS when we would go wardriving for Good times, good times.

Re:Misty water-colored memories... (1)

compwizrd (166184) | more than 2 years ago | (#40157283)

Telmex (mexican phone company) is STILL selling iDEN phones.. Android 2.1 based... apparently 2.2 dropped support for PTT, so they're stuck with 2.1 forever.

Good riddance (4, Funny)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151609)

I cannot tell you how many times I've had conversations that went like: "Whatever you do, do ... push the red button!" / "Confirming, you want me to push the red button?" / "I c... hear what ... SQUAWK red button!" / "OK, so are you saying not to push it?" / (dead air) / "Hello?"

I don't know if it was a technology problem with iDEN (how hard could it be to get a simple TDMA system right?) or if Nextel just woefully underdeployed cells, but a decade ago they definitely set the standard for how much a network could suck and still somehow attract business customers.

I'm pretty sure the other providers managed to add in comfort noise which you could hear cut out whenever a packet got dropped. Maybe that's where iDEN screwed up?

Re:Good riddance (1)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40151951)

Until late last year, I never had much trouble with PTT over iDEN depending on what building I was in, always worked fine outside. No carrier guarantees coverage inside a building plus these are old buildings that are built like bunkers and no network works. We have iDEN repeaters to solve this issue that we'll be switching to CDMA. Also, not all phones are equal. One thing I will miss about having an iDEN phone, had a tornado warning about a year ago (no touchdown/damage) shortly after Joplin, MO was hit not far from me, the non-iDEN phones couldn't get through.

Re:Good riddance (3, Interesting)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152239)

Working for a home-builder using Motorola iDEN phones was a blast. Like OP, we played with the data in the field quite a bit, and ISTR it did require a DUN connection to work but it was rock-solid. Sprint screwed up our billing so badly after taking over Nextel that we wound up with two accounts -- one Nextel and one Sprint -- no longer with shared minutes or services even though we were promised that everything would remain under one account. The situation was so frustrating that the operations manager asked me to work on the issue. I wound up having several meetings with various carrier business sales teams, including the regional Sprint/Nextel reps who promised that within "a few more months" everything Sprint and Nextel would be fully combined, including plans and billing. I ended the Sprint/Nextel meeting within a few minutes and kicked them out of the office (diplomatically, of course) as I had told them we wanted to move to Exchange-compatible phones (ActiveSync) NOT BlackBerry (my exact words before the meeting were "If you come with just Blackberries, don't come at all") and they showed up with nothing but BlackBerry and another promise that we'd be able to get non-BlackBerry phones within "a few more months." (None of their promises ever amounted to anything for us.)

We couldn't wait "a few more months" so we moved people who didn't need PTT over to AT&T and just kept the Nextel service for builders in the field and their in-office managers who used the hell out of PTT. Within the year following that move we brought the builders over as well as our new building management system required Palms, while Sprint/Nextel continued to make promises of "a few more months."

The short, Sprint bungled the whole thing with Nextel so badly that we halved our account with them within four months (about 180 phones) then were completely moved off within 18 months. I have a similar story about Alltel and Verizon, but I'll save that for a "bad Verizon" story.

BEEP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152023)

PLEASE tell me they're killing their PTT beep at the same time. Some joker turned that on as the courtesy tone on a local ham radio repeater and I about shot my radio.

Re:BEEP (1)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152053)

Nope, the CDMA PTT do it as well. Its kind of needed though, that beep lets you know your connected, occasionally, it doesn't always connect.

Re:BEEP (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152629)

It's probably optional - on DMR equipment you can turn off the "talk permit" tone which is presumably the same thing. You still get the FAIIIILLLLL beep if it can't associate to the repeater.

So ends Nextel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152169)

This is the end of a story where the best cell phone company was for some god awful reason bought by the worst and then slowly dissected and mutilated until there was nothing left.

Is there nothing Sprint can't destroy?

Re:So ends Nextel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152175)

Sorry hard to read.

Should have included some commas.

Re:So ends Nextel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152229)

> Is there nothing Sprint can't destroy?

Unfortunately, last I checked NASCAR is still in business.

Idiocracy (0)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152235)

I have nothing else to say.

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152243)

DAMN! Wrong thread! WRONG ARTICLE. X-(


Re:Idiocracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40152419)

But you proved your short, but eloquent point! Even if it was offtopic! ;)

Re:Idiocracy (1)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152487)

I reluctantly agree with you! =P

update on our 2012 Nextel Network projects (1)

JohninTJ (2650773) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152609)

Re:update on our 2012 Nextel Network projects (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152755)

Nah, much better info at sprint 4g rollout updates [] .

PTT over CDMA? (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40152763)

I thought one of the problems of CDMA and GSM networks was that call setup time was prohibitively long to get effective 2-way PTT communications going, something which doesn't affect a continuous voice conversation on a mobile phone. Wasn't that the appeal of the TETRA standard? 0.5s call setup time, the benefits of digital communications on a 2-way and packet data support (albeit slow)?

Our city has an area wide TETRA network managed by Motorola, not some ISP. This announcements sounds very like butchering one customer to benefit another.

Can someone tell me why a customer of a PTT system would want an internet browser instead of a 2-way radio? I'm confused. Anyone here have any experience with PTT over CDMA?

Re:PTT over CDMA? (3, Interesting)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40153997)

I suspect they will be doing PTT over something like SIP and RTP. This is known as Push to Talk over Cellular (iDEN is not classified as a cellular network for regulatory purposes in the US) and is abbreviated PoC. It was standardized by the Open Mobile Alliance for both 3GPP (GSM-family) and 3GPP2 (CDMA-family) networks.

Re:PTT over CDMA? (2)

Stephenmg (265369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40154351)

Its some VoIP thing, it requires data. Maybe qChat or something new. The new CDMA PTT works fine, call setup is not noticeable and coverage is better then iDEN.

Re:PTT over CDMA? (1)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 2 years ago | (#40156659)

It isn't bad but my service drops more and I have to power off the phone on my Motorola XT603. Still like the phone though because it is the only way to get android and PTT. What I'd love to see is a PTT app available on any android phone.

Re:PTT over CDMA? (1)

gcatullus (810326) | more than 2 years ago | (#40156563)

I am using a Motorola XT603 Android phone with Sprint and as I understand it the Nextel Push To Talk is going out like data. They did have "hybird" phones before that had a iden radio for push to talk and used the standard Sprint network for voice. The push to talk service is NOT as solid as on a standard iden phone, but it is decent.

This will be a tough switch because most business users are using the nextel PTT just like a two way radio that you don't need to buy repeater space for. The old motorola phones were very heavy duty. I have drivers and technicians with phones that are ten years old that have been abused and still work well.

One side note "push-to-talk" communication is the only cellular service that the Federal Motor Carrier safety Administration allows haz-mat drivers to use, provided that they are able to initiate and receive a call by pressing only one button. Hopefully Sprint doesn't screw this up. If the driver has to press anything more than one button, there is absolutely no reason for him to have a Sprint phone.

About damn time... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#40153737)

I did a 6 month student internship with Motorola a few years back and saw how iDEN works under the hood and the protocol is a piece of crap. Sprint should have shut it down in favor of CDMA years ago.

Good while it lasted. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40155003)

Not everyone realize, but IDEN is a network by itself, very few carrier in US has their own network. The truth of the merger between Nextel and Sprint was very obvious, Sprint needed more customer and Nextel wasn't going anywhere with their push to talk for long. If you look closely at the merger, the only person(s) got the best deal out of the merger was then CEO of Nextel and push to talk radio manager of operation. Everyone else in Nextel got the short end of the stick.

Will it work? (1)

Ivan Stepaniuk (1569563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40158577)

I had many iDEN phones ten years ago in Argentina, I was always amazed by how fast the connection is made, as soon as you press the PTT button the beep comes in and you can already speak, it takes less than hald a second. It was also very fast for international connections. Part of the trick is that your voice is already streaming even before the other peer has been found (that's why you could also get an error tone over your own voice when already 3 seconds into your speecBEEEEEEEEP!).

In the other hand, other two providers tried to implement PTT over GSM, it was a total dissaster. The main problem being that you had to hold the PTT button for almost 4 seconds in the first connection. I guess that GSM was not designed for such low latency operation. The question is...

Is CDMA be fast enough to replace iDEN?

Migrate data from Nextel SIM cards (1)

gr8dude (832945) | more than 2 years ago | (#40160269)

Nextel iDEN SIM cards use a different format for the storage of contacts, which is not compatible with the format described in GSM 11.11 (for regular 2G SIM cards), nor with the 3GPP spec for 3G USIM cards. If you read EF ADN (the abbreviated dialing numbers file), you will see just one entry, called "See iDEN phbk", while the actual phonebook is elsewhere and has a completely different structure.

If you want to migrate your iDEN phonebook to another SIM card, export them to a CSV file, or upload them to Google Contacts or Yahoo Contacts - you can rely on SIM Manager [] - it supports all card types and can exchange data between them.

My colleagues have reverse-engineered the format, and to the best of my knowledge - there is no other software that can read Nextel iDEN cards. I must point out that I find the iDEN phonebook format much more reasonable - it is a linear file (in smart card terminology, it is a file that is made from N records of a fixed length), each record contains all the data about a given contact.

In contrast, the phonebook of 3G USIM cards is scattered across multiple files (emails, secondary names, secondary numbers, etc), which have different lengths, thus they require additional files to correctly map records to a phonebook entry. This has a lot of side-effects, such as "sometimes not all phonebook entries can have an email" or "some mobile operators issue SIMs that don't have all the USIM phonebook files", or "depending on the phone's way of handling the phonebook, sometimes you may end up with orphaned entries that cannot be removed", etc.

I never used Nextel's services so I can't comment on their coverage or call quality, but I do know that the engineers who designed the phonebook format kept it simple. For a comparison - implementing support for 3G USIM phonebooks (with the specs available) took longer than implementing support for Nextel cards (with no documentation at all).

p.s. I hope no one will reply with a link to the spec, because we've tried our best to find it before deciding to do it the hard way (-:

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