Sprint Prepping Network Overhaul and iDEN-to-CDMA Transition
Sprint is planning a drastic overhaul to its entire wireless network in order to achieve several goals, said Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint. It plans to whittle the number of base stations it operates down from 66,000 to 46,000. Sprint will replace many of the antennas and radios at the base stations with ones that have better power output ratings as well as improved up/downlink efficiencies. Sprint will also convert its cell sites into multi-mode base stations that can handle CDMA 1x for voice and data, EVDO, WiMax or LTE based on the software installed on in the base station. This should make it easier and cheaper for Sprint to upgrade base stations in the future. This project will help Sprint improve the quality of its core CDMA network, as well as make the best use of its 800Mhz, 1900MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum holdings. Another key aspect of the overhaul will be to migrate its iDEN network users over to its CDMA network. In order to do that, Sprint will offer its iDEN users a push-to-talk solution that works over CDMA instead. Several years ago, Sprint committed to Qualcomm's QChat technology, which used EVDO Rev. A for PTT services. It performed on par with iDEN-based PTT, but was eventually abandoned. Azzi didn't say if Sprint would return to QChat or look to something else. Sprint spokesperson Scott Sloat confirmed Azzi's statements and said that it is working with Qualcomm to develop the replacement PTT technology. Sloat noted that the network update has been in the RFP (request for proposal) stage for several months. Sprint won't move forward with this project until agreeing to a proposal from its network equipment providers. Sloat said that once the project gets underway, it will take several years to complete. He also said that due to the decreased number of iDEN customers, it hopes to move some of its CDMA operations to the 800MHz band. Sloat added, however, that Sprint has not announced ant plans to decommission its iDEN network and it will continue to support its iDEN customers. Sprint currently operates iDEN, CDMA, and WiMax networks across the U.S.
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