It's been a very long time since I've heard the unmistakable "chirp chirp" of a push-to-talk (PTT) phone. Many people have forgotten about Nextel and Sprint iDEN users over the years, but Motorola hasn't. They've been there offering up some of the most durable phones known to man for those rough users, and now they plan to work with Sprint and continue making iDEN phones and supporting the network through the entirety of 2013.
Very popular among the contractor or construction worker crowd, iDEN has served as a fast way of verbal communication – a long-range walkie talkie – for seventeen years now. Times are changing and so is the technology behind telecommunications. In the last year we've been introduced to LTE, LTE Advanced, WiMAX, HSPA+, and LTHE, which are set to leave older technologies in the dust. So why isn't Sprint simply letting go of iDEN?
The technology is old, the coverage is more spotty than nearly any other service out there, and it's been years since any major improvements have come to iDEN. The majority of the devices offered by Sprint are basic flip phones, too. Of course, there is the Motorola i1, but it doesn't do the name "smartphone" much justice. Nonetheless, these iDEN flip phones and smartphones still have a place in the world; kudos to both Sprint and Motorola for recognizing that.
The easy thing for Sprint to do is what we were told they would, scrap their iDEN network altogether and move their users over to CDMA and WiMAX. Instead, Sprint is remaining loyal to those straggling Moto iDEN users for some time. I've worked retail, and when you tell an iDEN user that their network is going the way of the dinosaurs, it can get ugly. It's what they rely on for running their businesses, and it's a relatively cheap way for those businesses to put phones in the hands of their employees. Not to mention, it is low maintenance for Sprint for the time being and there's no need to market the widely known "chirp chirp" phones. They've been around for ages and if you ever want one, chances are you know where to get one, that is, until 2014. After that, the fate of Sprint's iDEN network is unknown.
The company has worked extremely hard at restoring customer faith and pulling out of a nosedive. Due to poor customer feedback and a loss of subscribers, they were headed straight to the bottom prior to this year. Improving their network, overall customer service, and changing up their smartphone lineup helped turn their situation around and saved the company. The last thing they would want to do now is drop a huge user base like dead weight. While I'm sure the number of iDEN subscribers doesn't hold a candle to Sprint's CDMA subscribers, it's still a large portion of their users, primarily business users, that still bring in revenue. In a sense, they are milking this network for all that it is worth. Can you blame them?
If they were to break it off with them without a well-in-advance notice, they would basically be handing outraged business subscribers over to another carrier. While it may not initially seem like the smartest move to public eyes, continuing support for iDEN will keep quite a few customers subdued while Sprint works on the PTT capabilities of their CDMA network. In the meantime, they will also be further proving that they are here to meet the needs of their customers, whether that means following the trends of the mobile world or hanging on to old technologies.