RealTime IT News

Sprint Crossing T's Before 3G Launch

Sprint PCS is putting the finishing touches on its summer launch of next-generation digital wireless phone services, the much-hyped but sub-3G technology that delivers data packets over the phone.

The nationwide wireless phone carrier enters the 3G fray months after its biggest competitor, Verizon Wireless , which launched a similar service in January. Dubbed "Express Network," Verizon launched the service in the Northeast U.S. and has now expanded to 30 states.

Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint are operating with the code-division multiple access(CDMA) technology for 3G services called CDMA2000 1x, the first iteration of 3G services. While the service is technically 3G (a term bandied about as a high-speed Internet option), data speeds rarely wander outside the 40-60 Kbps range. In lab conditions, CDMA2000 1x hits speeds of 144 Kbps.

But where Verizon Wireless has service in 30 states today, Sprint expects to launch 3G nationwide, all at one time.

Sprint has delayed its 3G service roll out a couple times in the last year, as it beefs up its network to include the next-generation technology and recovers from the high-tech slump that hit all telecoms in recent times.

Originally, the carrier planned on being the first 3G phone company in the U.S., with a scheduled launch in late 2001. That date was pushed back to mid-2002, and culminated with a conference call with Audiovox officials yesterday, which seemed to show Sprint officials were debating a July launch date, but pushed it back to sometime in August.

The Audiovox comments, reported by Reuters, show Sprint announcing 3G products on Aug. 10, but that doesn't necessarily mean the service itself won't be announced beforehand.

Larissa Dills, a Sprint spokesperson, said any speculation over a Sprint launch date is unwarranted.

"We have never announced a launch date outside our plans to offer the service in mid-2002," she said. "We are on track to meet that (time frame)."

Sprint started running an "Out of This World Clarity" advertising campaign Monday, to tie in with the release of Men in Black 2, due out Wedneday. The ads tout Sprint phones performing next-generation phone services like digital imaging and high-speed Internet access -- something it will sport on all 3G phones.

"The previous campaign promoted clarity in terms of voice," said spokesman Dan Wilinsky. "But pretty soon coming from Sprint is clarity with data. The new campaign is a precursor to our 3G services that we'll make available later this summer."