Sprint announced plans to launch “next-generation” push-to-talk services using its CDMA network in the fourth quarter of 2011, ahead of the future phase-out of its iDEN network. The company is supporting the launch with a new brand, Sprint Direct Connect, and will launch an “initial set of handsets packed with features designed for workgroups” from vendors Motorola Mobility and Kyocera. With the adoption of CDMA for its new rugged terminals, Sprint now also boasts of features including “high-speed data access, high-resolution cameras and Bluetooth,” and the planned portfolio includes an Android smartphone with a touchscreen and a QWERTY keypad. In 2012, Sprint Direct Connect will be extended to support capabilities such as international push-to-talk.
Late last year, Sprint announced the intention to phase-out its iDEN network from 2013, in the process freeing-up its 800MHz spectrum for other purposes – LTE has been a suggestion. With push-to-talk being one of the key features of the iDEN network, the company said that the timings for the network close will depend on when “all things are successful in terms of the coverage and the way [CMDA] PTT operates.” Through the transition, Sprint said that it plans to increase its push-to-talk coverage to nearly 2.7 million square miles from 908,000 square miles, with in-building coverage also expected to “improve significantly.”