Sprint joins high-speed wireless data race

CHICAGO'Sprint Corp. today announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next two years to deploy the 1xEvolved Data Optimized high-speed data service over its PCS network.

'We expect to have some services available in initial markets lat this year,' with rollout to most major U.S. markets expected in 2005, Oliver Valente, vice president of technology development, said at the announcement at the SuperComm trade show.

The company would not discuss which markets would first get the service, but Valente said the federal government is expected to be a major customer.

'The government is a first mover in a lot of the wireless data space,' he said. The security of the Code Division Multiple Access technology upon which EV-DO is based makes it a good match for government applications, he said.

Sprint's decision to roll out the new technology follows its trial introduction last year by Verizon Communications Inc. of New York in Washington, D.C., and San Diego. Valente said Sprint's decision was prompted by consumer demand for increased capacity.

EV-DO is based on the Code Division Multiple Access cellular standard and offers peak speeds of 2.4 Mbps over a cellular system, although real-world throughput is typically in the 300- to 800-Kbps range. Sprint put average user upload speeds at 300 to 500Kbps, with peak speeds of up to 2.4Mbps for downloads.

EV-DO requires dedicated spectrum for the service. Valente said Sprint has plenty of overhead in its radio frequency spectrum, easing the decision to deploy the service.

The carrier made the decision to quickly deploy 1xEV-DO rather than wait on standards and equipment availability for a next generation of high-speed wireless data.

'We see a large and growing customer demand for the services,' Valente said. More than 100 million pictures have been shared since Sprint offered the photo option in its PCS Vision service. Games, streaming and stored video and audio also are growing applications.

In the enterprise arena, 'plain connectivity for laptops is the day-one killer app, and will continue to be,' Valente said.

Plans call for almost immediately upgrading the PCS network again as soon as the initial EV-DO deployment is complete. Valente said the company has not decided whether it will go with Release A of EV-DO for the next generation of wireless data services, or Release D of 1xEV-DV, another CDMA service. Equipment for both services is expected to be available in 2006.

The network upgrade will require installation of a new channel card and an additional RF carrier in Sprint's cell sites. Equipment is coming from Lucent Technology Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J.; Samsung Electronics Co. of Ridgefield Park, N.J.; Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ontario; and Motorola Inc.

Users will need EV-DO-capable handsets for the new service on cellular phones, or EV-DO connection cards for notebooks and other mobile computers. Customers will be able to use existing services without moving to EV-DO, and EV-DO customers will transition to existing services in areas where the new service is not available.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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