Ok... enough of the wild speculations (not to bash on those that tried to provide information... I just know the facts because I used to work on this stuff).
Airpeak was never a reseller. They were an independent iDEN provider based out of Reno that was in competition locally w/ Sprint. All Sprint had to do was swing the T1 over to their network.
The site is on a peak about 10 miles south of Empire.
No, the site doesn't transmit at 100 watts... it's more like 40watts at the very most, and probably lower than that (100w and Sprint would be in hot water w/ the FCC, not to mention iDEN base radios haven't been manufactured at any level above 40w since 1999 or so). You never want to crank a site up that high anyways, since you're going for what's called a "balanced path" so the tower can actually hear the phones that are locked on it (remember, the phone is only transmitting w/ 0.6w max).
The site BARELY reaches gate road and sketchy at best up to the greeters station (gate road is well over 2 miles this year). By the time you reach the city perimeter the phones are pretty much useless. By the time you're in the city, walking around in lazy circles (try getting drunk first, it's more fun), and you MIGHT get the phone to connect, and one bar of signal if you sacrifice a small animal. Good luck trying to hold a call or actually have an intelligible conversation.
Those of you who think you're sitting pretty with your old analog bag-phones and a nice high-gain yagi, the party's pretty much over starting in 2008 with that gear. The FCC just gave the go-ahead for all carriers still supporting analog service to start ripping it all out. Sorry.
Cells on wheels (affectionately referred to as COW's in the industry) require at the very least a T1 backhaul either via copper or microwave. There isn't that much bandwidth coming into the region to support probably even one site at low-capacity. A fully loaded iDEN cell could probably support some combination of up to (approximately) 120 conversations fully loaded with a single T1. Since that would be with 3 sectors at the site (if it's even configured that way), only 1 would be pointed in the direction of Gerlach, providing effectively around 40-45 conversations maximum (have to put aside a few timeslots for control data, etc, which precludes a conversation from happening on those slots).
CDMA sites (if Sprint had put one up there, which I'm not sure if they have) can support up to 1000 calls or more per site (though many aren't configured / loaded up that much in most areas). Of course that depends on configuration and # of T1 lines attached. 1900MHz range is much worse than 800MHz (where iDEN operates), so even if they did, it wouldn't make it to the event site.
Now... for those that are dying for a different kind of 2-way radio service on the playa (since FRS and GMRS are FUCKING USELESS most of the time with 10,000 of the 40,000+ users trying to squeeze on to 14 half-watt channels, or a whopping 2w on the 8 GMRS channels), there is a solution. IF you have one of the newer iDEN phones that does "direct-talk" (yes, this is not the same as the "direct-connect" function), you've got a built-in 2-way radio that doesn't require a license, and virtually nobody is using. 10 virtual channels and 15 codes on the service, and it'll work with any other iDEN phone that's in direct-talk mode and matched up with the channel number and code. They'll practically cover the entire event site, and they do not need to have any coverage from the network to operate.
Sprint/Nextel iDEN phones that have this feature...
* Motorola i930
* Motorola i870
For those that are interested, it's using the 900MHz ISM protocol (think it's spread-spectrum).