ORLANDO, Fla.--SouthernLINC Wireless has inked a long-sought-for nationwide iDEN push-to-talk and data roaming deal with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), despite Sprint's intention to start shutting down the network in 2013.
SouthernLINC CEO Bob Dawson said that the service will go live in April along with new simplified rate plans. He said SouthernLINC-- which is based in Atlanta and offers service in metro and rural areas of Alabama, Georgia, southeast Mississippi and northwest Florida--has been seeking the deal since 1995.
SouthernLINC has had a voice roaming agreement in place with Nextel since 2002, but Dawson said that he felt Sprint's advocacy for automatic data roaming rules pushed them to sign a deal.
"I suspect that Sprint is doing this because they are now advocating that data roaming would be a good idea," he said. Sprint has been advocating for the roaming rules against objections by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T); the FCC is scheduled to vote on the rules at its April meeting.
Dawson admitted that Sprint's decision to shut down its iDEN network could imperil the long-term prospects of the deal, but he said that it would be foolish not to take the deal.
"It's an opportunity for us to win back customers" and sustain the company's subscriber base, Dawson said. He said most SouthernLINC subscribers--ranging from utility workers to public safety workers--talk locally but will appreciate having nationwide roaming.
Sprint said earlier this month that it plans to launch its upgraded push-to-talk service on its CDMA network in the fourth quarter. Sprint said its forthcoming Sprint Direct Connect service will offer improved in-building coverage and will triple the square-mile reach of its current iDEN-based PTT service--Sprint said its new PTT offering will cover 2.7 million square miles and a population of 309 million (with the addition of 1XRTT and roaming coverage), up from the iDEN network's 908,370 square miles covering a population 278 million. The new service will ride on Sprint's 1900 MHz spectrum; Sprint's iDEN network runs on the carrier's 800 MHz spectrum.
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