Sprint to 'Retain' & Spruce Up iDEN

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) said late Thursday that it plans to "retain and rejuvenate" its iDEN network after months of speculation about a possible sale of the assets.

Earlier this month, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse had maintained his long-time position that an iDEN sale was a possibility, telling reporters at a XOHM WiMax event that "everything is on the table." Evidently this has now changed and the operator has stepped back from any kind of sale. (See Hesse: Cellular 'Relatively Immune' to Downturn.)

"The iDEN network is a key differentiator for Sprint, as it allows us to offer products and services no other carrier in the industry can match," says Hesse in a statement. "We continue to build on our support for our industry-leading push-to-talk Nextel Direct Connect franchise through our aggressive marketing efforts which exploit the unique features and functionality of the iDEN network."

In November, the operator plans to introduce a new Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) i576 phone on the iDEN network, along with the BlackBerry BlackBerry 8350i smartphone "later this year." This is just part of Sprint's plan to jazz up its iDEN portfolio. The Overland Park, Kansas-based operator says it will intro eight new handsets on the network next year, five in the first six months of 2009.

Sprint says that it also plans to refocus the Boost mobile, pay-as-you-go service for "today's economic times." To that end, it will start to offer "Boost Unlimited" with a "nationwide calling area for one monthly fee."

Sprint says the plan is "to compete aggressively for customers impacted by the current economic environment with a lower per-minute rate and other attractive pricing options."

Motorola, which designed the proprietary iDEN technology in the first place, also announced that it has re-upped its networking deal with Sprint.

Of course, there had always been questions about the potential logic of an iDEN sale for Sprint. The technology offers no real upgrade path to 3G and 4G data speeds and has a dwindling, but loyal, band of users hooked on the push-to-talk, walkie-talkie-style Direct Connect service. Most recently, analysts have questioned exactly how much money Sprint could derive from the sale of the older technology. (See Sprint Nextel's iDEN Sale Faces Hurdles.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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