RealTime IT News

Sprint Woos Jet Set

Sprint today introduced a new service for international business travelers, making it easier for them to make calls in more than 130 countries.

The new offering features Samsung's IP-A790 handsets for Code-Division Multiple Access networks (which Sprint uses in the United States) as well as Global System for Mobile communication systems (which are common in Europe and parts of Asia).

The IP-A790 phone, which will sell for $549.99, also works as a multimedia device on Sprint's U.S. network, so customers can view on-demand streaming video and audio and shoot video with the phone's camera and camcorder. It will be in stores next month.

"We've offered international roaming agreements for some time," Amy Schiska-Lombard, Sprint spokeswoman, told internetnews.com. "What's new is we have a phone that works on CDMA and GSM."

Sprint has also set flat rates for overseas calling, a billing method that it believes could be a differentiator.

Subscribers will pay $1.50 per minute for local and long-distance calls in countries served by GSM networks. Rates for remaining covered countries that use CDMA are 50 cents to 99 cents per minute, plus varying long-distance rates, depending on where the call originates.

Other carriers have similar programs. In fact, Verizon Wireless has an international plan that features the same Samsung phone.

Bob Egan, founder and CEO of the research firm Mobile Competency, said development of dual-standard offerings will be critical for Sprint and Verizon Wireless, which both operate CDMA networks

"[Sprint and Verizon] have a keen interest to attract and retain the business market," Egan said. "We're in a world economy, and the high-end users tend to be people who travel internationally."

Egan noted that CDMA-based networks are most popular in North America, South America and South Korea.

"CDMA subscribers have been pretty orphaned from the international scene. CDMA operators realize this is a problem for them and you're starting to see CDMA and GSM coming together," he added.

That said, there are a number of options for frequent business travelers that may make more sense than buying this particular phone for $550. For example, they could buy a less expensive GSM phone for use overseas (provided they don't mind having another number), or they could insert a subscriber identity module card into an unlocked GSM phone to keep their number.

Less frequent travelers could rent GSM phones from carriers or buy prepaid models once they arrive at their destinations, Egan suggested.