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Sprint Sticking with Own 3G Path

ATLANTA -- Now that Verizon Wireless has pledged another $1 billion to expand its 3G data services based on its CDMA 1xEV-DO (evolution data only) technology, will other carriers be goosed into spending big bucks for "true" 3G upgrades?

Not Sprint. Company officials told internetnews.com it is sticking with its plan to upgrade its 3G network to the EVDV (evolution data voice) standard, which will deliver data at 1.5 megabits per second.

"We're looking at a two to three year rollout," said Tom Shaughnessy, Sprint's director of enterprise marketing. "If we start to go down the EVDO path, it's just a band aid, when what we're trying to do is get to EVDV," which is Sprint's version of its voice-only data network upgrade, Shaughnessy said.

Verizon said its 1xEV-DO technology now boasts data transmission speeds of up to 300 kilobits per second, with bursts of up to two megabits per second means a major improvement in speed.

Tom Stone, vice president of marketing for Verizon Wireless, said his company is overlaying its EV-DO network on its existing 1XRT data network that preceded Verizon's EV-DO buildout. In all, that means its 3G footprint will eventually spread to 200 million, officials said, as it rolls out the service nationally beyond trials in San Diego and Washington, D.C. last fall.

"The biggest thing about this announcement is that it's the first true 3G offering in the U.S.," Stone said. "I think it will be some time before you see competing 3G offerings on the same scale as what you're seeing here."

And as for how the service competes with Wi-Fi? Stone said the service offers much more ubiquity. "I can go anywhere in downtown Atlanta and I've got coverage."

If there is one area in which Sprint is sticking by its plans, it is in joining the chorus with Verizon to claim that its CDMA version of 3G is as good as, if not better, than the GSM version of 3G, known as the EDGE data networking standard.

"EDGE is just a band aid to get to UMTS (GSM's version of 3G, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, is slated to deliver data at 2 Mb per second), Sprint's Shaughnessy added. "EDGE isn't backwards compatible with GPRS, which isn't backwards compatible with GSM. You need constant upgrades and swapouts," he said.

But Chris Pearson, president of 3G Americas, a lobbying organization for GSM-standard carriers, said EDGE is backwards compatible to GSM. "If you're outside an EDGE device, you default down to GPRS ," he said.

"EDGE reaches 220 million POPs in the US. Additionally, Cingular has launched EDGE in 10 major markets. We're really hitting the 3G sweet spot, which is a key enabler for enterprise and consumer applications of 110 and 130 kilobits per second."