Sprint Rolls Out 3G Web Service

Sprint rolled out its latest wireless Web high-speed data networking service, joining wireless rival Verizon in offering 3G data networking that goes beyond the limited range of Wi-Fi .

Sprint said average download speeds on the EV-DO service are about 400-700 Kbps with bursts of up to 2 Mbps .

John Polivka, a Sprint spokesman, said the rollout is starting in business corridors with high wireless-data traffic demands, such as airports and central business districts, followed by broader metropolitan areas.

As for the data rates promised on the network, Sprint is calling it a near-broadband experience and says higher speeds are planned in the future.

“With the EVDO card, you can now have it two ways. You can use a hotspot, or when you’re moving about, you’ve got that connectivity available,” Polivka told internetnews.com. “We’re beginning with the business customer who has a high data demand. As the rollout continues, we’ll keep that footprint expanding for consumer users too.”

Sprint has sunk over $1 billion into the 3G network upgrade, which it calls release A. More upgrades are on the drawing board, too. By next year or 2007, it expects to be offering peak data rates of 3.1 Mbps for downloads and 1.8 Mbps for uploads on the service.

The EV-DO service launch is one facet of its “wireless anywhere” strategy. The company already offers more than 19,000 Wi-Fi hot spots, in addition to its remote access service that uses Sprint’s 1xRTT network. “Our target is to grow the hotspot number to 25,000 before the year’s out,” Polivka said.

“We’ve always maintained that we want to make wireless networking broadly available,” Polivka added. “Wi-Fi is great but it has a limited range of about 100 feet. Now you’ve got EV-DO, which continues the broadband experience, and, using dual-mode [networking] cards, you can use the EV-DO network when in our footprint, or when you’re outside that footprint, it reverts to our 1xRTT network.”

While the service is targeted for the usual Internet stuff, accessing the Internet, checking e-mails, downloading attachments, it is also positioned for improved audio and video capabilities, company officials said.

The plans start at $40 per month for 40MB with a price cap at $90 for those months when customers use the service more, Sprint said. It also offers an unlimited access plan through business sales channels for $80 per month.

The service is available in 34 markets this month, with another 14 metro areas targeted in the third quarter, and 36 more areas targeted by fourth quarter. Ultimately, the data networking service will be available to about 150 million customers.

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