Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) plans to launch its upgraded push-to-talk service on its CDMA network in the fourth quarter, one of the carrier's first concrete steps in its effort to shut down its iDEN network as part of its network modernization project.
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.
Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) will be the vendor for the PTT solution, which is an upgrade over the existing QChat technology that Sprint deployed a few years ago using its CDMA network.
Sprint said it initially will launch the service via a portfolio of rugged devices from Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) and Kyocera. The gadgets will feature the new PTT service--which will support group push-to-talk for up to 200 participants, Land Mobile Radio interoperability and availability notification--as well as high-resolution cameras and Bluetooth. Sprint said the portfolio will include an Android smartphone with a touchscreen and Qwerty keyboard, and that it will launch additional PTT devices in 2012. Additionally, in early 2012, Sprint said it will expand its PTT services to include international PTT functions and other services.
The launch of PTT on Sprint's CDMA network is a further effort by the carrier to transition die-hard Nextel users onto its CDMA network (Sprint acquired Nextel and its PTT-capable iDEN network in 2005). Sprint plans to begin phasing out its iDEN network in 2013. As Sprint migrates its iDEN customers to CDMA, the company plans to use its 800 MHz spectrum for voice and eventually take advantage of CDMA 1X Advanced technology.
The PTT upgrade is part of Sprint's network modernization project, dubbed Network Vision, that was announced in December. Sprint selected Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung for the project, which will cost $4 billion to $5 billion, and is expected to take three to five years to complete. The heart of the project is the deployment of new multi-mode base station, which Sprint said will reduce the in-building coverage differences between Sprint's 1900 MHz and 800 MHz spectrum, and will provide customers with faster data speeds.
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