Sprint has outlined its plan to restructure its cellular network, consolidating its towers into new multi-band installations, and phasing out the iDEN push-to-talk network.
Right now Sprint uses separate hardware for its cell towers for each of the three frequency bands it handles. While that arrangement has given Sprint a good deal of flexibility in how it expanded its network’s capabilities, it also leads to a fractured, inefficient system. The hardware that uses the 800MHz band may be on a different tower from 1900MHz hardware, making it a bit rough to keep track of what services are available where.
In what Sprint is calling its “Network Vision” strategy, these existing base stations will either be shut down or upgraded to use hardware capable of working on any of Sprint’s frequencies. In theory, one tower could replace three existing towers, cutting down on power and maintenance costs. More importantly to Sprint customers, it could also lead to more homogeneous coverage; anywhere you can get some Sprint signal, you should be able to get any Sprint signal. Granted, the new installations won’t necessarily all be configured to use every available frequency band, but the capability will be in place.
All this progress comes at a price, as Sprint plans to phase out the iDEN network used by its PTT handsets. A next-gen PTT network is in the plans for 2011. After giving users a couple years to upgrade their handsets, the old iDEN system will start to be shuttered in 2013.