As Sprint moves to the future by building an all-new network, it means leaving some things in the past.

Such as a staggering amount of network gear and other materials – more than 100 million pounds in all – left behind as Sprint shutters the iDEN Nextel National Network.

But Sprint does not intend to let all of the cables, batteries and even the concrete shelters that many iDEN cell sites occupy end up in a landfill. Sprint is recycling nearly all of the network equipment it can’t reuse.

“Recycling a nationwide wireless network is a huge undertaking, but one that we’re committed to,” said Bob Azzi, Senior Vice President-Network. “The company has earned a reputation for environmental stewardship. The iDEN recycling effort extends our commitment.”

Network Vision

With a program Sprint calls Network Vision, the company is enhancing network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers across the United States. Sprint is deploying a new 3G network, as well as rolling out 4G LTE nationwide.

Another part of Network Vision involves bringing improvements to the Sprint Direct Connect push-to-talk service. Customers who migrate to Sprint Direct Connect experience three times the push-to-talk coverage compared to iDEN, international direct connect reach to Latin American countries, and 3G broadband data capabilities.

These changes mean the decommissioning of the iDEN network. Tens of thousands of iDEN cell sites will be deconstructed and taken off air. Sites where CDMA and LTE equipment is co-located will be left intact, minus the iDEN gear.

Radios, server racks, antennae, air conditioners and other equipment all are being staged for recycling vendors. Most concrete shelters housing iDEN cell sites will be crushed and turned into composite for roads and bridges.

The iDEN recycling project is expected to continue into early 2014.

The last full day of iDEN service will be June 29; shutdown starts Sunday, June 30, and will continue throughout the day. iDEN devices will then no longer receive voice service – including 911 calls – or data service. Sprint will shut down switch locations in rapid succession on June 30, followed by powering down equipment and eliminating backhaul at each cell site. 

More information:
Sprint Sustainability
Press release: iDEN Nextel National Network on Schedule to Shut Down June 30


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