Sprint tests high 3G speed, rolls out new PCS plan

Sprint announced on Tuesday that it had completed, on test basis, a 2.4M bit per second (bps) wireless data call -- well above current mobile data transfer speeds, which range from 9.6K bps to 14.4K bps. Sprint also detailed a new digital and voice service plan on Tuesday in a separate announcement.

Sprint made the over-the-air call using Lucent Technologies equipment at Sprint's test site on Thursday, said Dan Wilinsky, a Sprint PCS spokesman. The call used a third-generation (3G) wireless transmission protocol called CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, or code division multiple access 1x evolution-data only. Calls using this 3G wireless protocol can only transmit data.

The company has a four-phase plan to upgrade its wireless network to handle 3G data and voice traffic, Wilinsky said. "We're looking for 2.4M bps speeds in 2003, with voice and data in 2004," he said. Improving voice transmission speed to 2.4M bps in 2004 will improve signal quality and the number of calls the wireless network can transmit without requiring additional spectrum. "We have sufficient spectrum for the next ten years," he said.

The first part of the migration to 3G will happen in select areas by the end of the year and nationwide by the summer of 2002, he said. The 3G upgrade is expected to double network capacity, increasing data transmission tenfold to 144K bps from 14.4 K bps today.

Sprint also rolled out a new plan targeting business customers Tuesday, promoting an all-inclusive set of digital service plans. Customers on the plan may use the minutes at any time of day for either voice or data communication, with prices ranging from US$59.99 for 600 minutes to $149.99 for 3,000 minutes. The plans include long-distance charges, as well as Sprint's digital services like wireless Web access, America Online's Instant Messenger, short-text messaging and voice-command autodialing. "These plans are targeted toward people who use data services more often," said Suzanne Lammers, a Sprint PCS spokeswoman.

However, with the wireless carrier planning a roll-out of faster data transmission services by the end of the year -- which will require a different service plan and 3G-compatible phones -- some business customers may end up waiting before committing to a long service contract. "I guess that depends on the business customer," Lammers said.

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