TC2's David Rohde on Telecom

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Nextel customers: Your transition work starts now, since Sprint’s already started theirs

By Posted June 4, 2012

The following is a guest post by LB3 partner Justin Castillo.

As well known as it’s been that Sprint would be shutting down the Nextel iDEN network, last week’s announcement that the network will be decommissioned “as early as” June 30, 2013 demands attention. This is no typical IT end-of-upgrades or end-of-support announcement; it’s the actual turning off of a network. If you have Nextel push-to-talk users, taking a “wait-and-see” approach is not an option this time.

My assessment is that Sprint is serious about the June 2013 target date, and there are substantial internal incentives there to stick to that time frame (though you never know what might happen). Sprint almost certainly is not going to make any contractual commitments to extend iDEN service past June 2013. Nor is it realistic to think that Sprint might agree to extend support “informally.” As David explained last week, Sprint has urgent new needs for the 800 MHz spectrum block.

In fact, Sprint has transition plans in place that should be unfolding soon, starting with notification letters in the first two weeks of June. You’ll be getting one if you have corporate-liable users on the iDEN network.

My advice? Treat June 30, 2013 as a “hard stop” for iDEN. Don’t wait: Start working with Sprint NOW to ensure a smooth transition, and start evaluating your own contractual options. Your contract may permit terminating iDEN devices proactively; it’s a good idea to check. If you haven’t already, you probably want to test out Sprint’s CDMA PTT solution, and you may want to pilot other vendors’ PTT solutions as well.

It’s also a good idea to ask questions now on a couple of other transition and specialized issues:

  • Decommissioning of seasonal devices – will you be able to bring the iDEN devices back after a hiatus?
  • If you have any CNS in-building solutions providing iDEN coverage, will they still work after June of next year?

While this project has been in the works for a long time, executing on the transition away from iDEN will be essential. Let’s hope Sprint’s up to it, but in any event make sure you’ve done everything you can as well.

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