Sprint today announced that with new roaming agreements and the use of CDMA 1xRTT technology, the availability of its new DirectConnect service has expanded such that it covers three times the square mileage that its iDEN network does. According to Sprint, the DirectConnect service now works on its 1xRTT 2.5G network in its PCS 1900MHz spectrum band, which has a broader footprint than Sprint's EVDO 3G network. Sprint explained that initial call set-up time will take a bit longer over 1xRTT than over EVDO (especially in areas where the user is roaming), but that the rest of the conversation will behave as quickly as it does over EVDO. Sprint didn't name its new roaming partners, but they are other U.S. carriers that operate CDMA-1xRTT networks. Moving forward, new Sprint DirectConnect devices will ship with this feature enabled. DirectConnect devices that are already for sale, such as the Kyocera DuraMax and DuraCore, will require a software update to use DirectConnect over 1xRTT. The update will be delivered over the air beginning the week of June 18. Sprint also reaffirmed that it has ceased retail sales of iDEN handsets and will discontinue all availability of iDEN handsets in the coming weeks.
Sprint today announced that it will launch its next-generation, IP-based push-to-talk service, which runs on its CDMA network, starting on October 2. The new Sprint Direct Connect service is available in an area that is already larger than its iDEN-based walkie-talkie service. By early 2012, Sprint says the new DirectConnect service footprint will equal that of its entire CDMA network. The first generation of devices to include this new service (Kyocera DuraMax and DuraCore, and an unnamed Motorola) offer most of the same push-to-talk features that are available on today's iDEN handsets, such as DirectConnect, GroupConnect, Call Alert, NextMail, and others. They can also take advantage of Sprint's CDMA 3G network. The Kyocera DuraMax will be available Oct. 2 for $69.99 after rebate with a new two-year agreement. The Kyocera DuraCore is expected to be available by the end of the year. Sprint said the Motorola device will run Android, and will also be available towards the end of the year. Sprint also noted that it will begin to offer international PTT roaming in select countries starting in 2012.
Both the DuraCore and DuraMax are rugged phones for Sprint. Rather than support Sprint's iDEN network for PTT functions, however, they rely on the new CDMA-based alternative.