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Sprint to close Nextel Network before June 2013

Though the current line of Nextel push-to-talk cell phones will be extinct by next summer, the walkie-talkie-like service will live on.

Sprint announced today that it will shut down the 2G iDEN Nextel National Network as early as June 30, 2013 as part of its Network Vision plan, which involves moving the company's CDMA network to a new technology called 1X Advanced.

The move comes as the company is also working to roll out its 4G LTE network.

The cell phone giant will send written notices to business and government customers beginning June 1, with more information about the eventual iDen shutdown, Sprint said in a statement.

Nextel users will have the option to pick up their service with Sprint via its Direct Connect service or move on to a competing carrier. Last year, Sprint announced an enhanced version of Sprint Direct Connect, which will allow for improved push-to-talk coverage over its CDMA network.

"We think what we have in Sprint Direct Connect is pretty compelling," Sprint spokesman Mark Bonavia said Tuesday.

The new line of handsets will follow in Nextel's walkie-talkie footsteps, offering the same push-to-talk capabilities as outgoing cell phones. Already, the Direct Connect network has outperformed the iDEN radio interface, Bonavia said.

Sprint first announced plans to shut down Nextel iDen back in 2010; at the time, it said the network would be done by 2017. "We talked about how one seamless network was obviously better than multiple ones," Bonavia said. "We wanted a network for the future, and we believe we're investing in one."

During Sprint's optimization of its Nextel cell towers, users' coverage should not be affected, though some customers may experience temporary disruptions.