All things must come to an end eventually, particularly in the rapidly changing world of commercial wireless communications. As such, the Sprint Nextel iDEN technology one day will cease to exist, but not any time soon, according to a spokesman with the carrier.

“All technologies and all networks need to be upgraded, and that’s what we’re looking at — a gradual change over the next three or four years to move to newer technologies that will allow us to have more spectrum frequency, reduce our costs and improve our coverage,” Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat said. “At this point, we have no plans to shut down the [iDEN] network or forcefully migrate customers to CDMA or another network. And we have no immediate plans to close down the iDEN network or anything like that.”

There has been considerable speculation in the industry about the future of iDEN, as Sprint Nextel has been losing significant customers off the network for years. Interest in the future of iDEN has become a focus of attention in recent months, as the carrier has a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a new network evolution roadmap.

Sprint Nextel plans to announce the RFP winners within the next “few months, probably before the end of the year,” Sloat said. However, implementation of those plans likely will take another three or four years, he said.

And those plans are expected to include an enhanced push-to-talk capability that will incorporate dynamic data offerings, as well as voice, Sloat said.

“Obviously, push-to-talk technology is an important part of our leadership, and we remain committed to that for our customers,” he said.

Of course, we’ve heard this notion before, as Sprint Nextel and other carriers long have promised push-to-talk capabilities over their networks that would rival the service offered via iDEN technology. To date, those efforts have not been successful in supplanting iDEN in the push-to-talk arena that is valued by so many enterprise customers.

If Sprint Nextel — or any other carrier — can find the appropriate push-to-talk technology, the advancement also could have a significant impact on the future of public-safety communications. Many first-responder agencies eventually would like to leverage proposed LTE networks for both mission-critical data and voice, but the fact that even commercial-level push-to-talk capabilities appear to be years away makes it difficult for public-safety leaders to begin contemplating such a migration in earnest.

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