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Sprint Nextel outlines 3G expansion, upgrade
[March 30, 2006]

Sprint Nextel outlines 3G expansion, upgrade

(InfoWorld Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Sprint Nextel plans to upgrade its Sprint Power Vision mobile broadband network for much higher upload speeds to become available in the first quarter of 2007, with a PC Card client that supports the new technology on sale in the third quarter of this year.

The Sprint Power Vision network uses a 3G (third-generation) technology called EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) and covers more than 150 million people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to the company. The network will expand to cover an estimated 190 million people by the end of this year, Sprint Nextel said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the carrier plans to start upgrading the network to EV-DO Revision A, which will fatten the pipe upstream from a subscriber's device to the network. The overlay technology will help subscribers use applications such as video telephony, video messaging, high-performance push-to-talk conversations and uploading of large files such as presentations, Sprint Nextel said.

At the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas next week, Sprint Nextel and partners Nortel Networks Corp., Novatel Wireless Inc. and Sierra Wireless Inc. will demonstrate a PC Card that supports both the current network technology and Revision A. Sprint plans to start selling cards compatible with Revision A in the third quarter of this year.

Upstream speeds should increase to between 300K bps (bits per second) and 400K bps from a current range of 70K bps to 144K bps, the company said. Downstream speeds are likely to show a more modest increase to 450-800K bps from the current 400-700K bps. The peak rate, now 2M bps, will rise as high as 3.1M bps, according to Sprint Nextel.

In the first quarter of next year, EV-DO Revision A will reach about 214 million people, Sprint Nextel said. By the end of the third quarter of 2007, the overlay will be rolled out across the whole Sprint Power Vision network and will reach about 220 million people.

Sprint Nextel's other network, operated under the Nextel brand, is based on a different technology called iDEN, which doesn't have a 3G component, said Sprint Nextel spokesman John Polivka. It will remain separate from the Sprint network for the foreseeable future, he said

The other major mobile operators in the U.S. also are gearing up to capture the market for 3G services and the higher revenue it can bring. Verizon Wireless Inc. reaches more than 150 million people around the country with its EV-DO network, according to spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. Verizon also plans to roll out EV-DO Revision A, Nelson said, but he would not give a target date for rollout. Cingular Wireless LLC, a joint venture of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., said last month it was using UMTS HSDPA (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System High Speed Downlink Packet Access) in 16 major metropolitan areas and would expand that coverage to most major U.S. metropolitan areas this year.

Although U.S. mobile users have been slower than their European counterparts to adopt some data services, the country's mobile data market is potentially huge and attracting interest from vendors worldwide, according to Mark Donovan, senior vice president and senior analyst at M:Metrics Inc., in Seattle. For example, in the U.S. in January, only 3.3 percent of mobile users downloaded a game, a lower percentage than in the U.K. and Germany. However, that percentage added up to about 6 million users, according to Donovan.

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