Sprint Unfurls New ION Service Levels

To build out its broadband portfolio, Sprint Corp. on Wednesday unleashed new DSL offerings built around its ION (Integrated On-Demand Network) service.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint's new ION offerings are designed to help the company scoop further down into the consumer market.

Specifically, Sprint rolled out a slimmed-down version of its DSL-based ION service, which has traditionally wrapped in four voice/fax lines and combined long-distance service with high-speed Internet access.

The company unveiled Sprint ION xt2, a bundled package containing only two voice/fax lines. Sprint also came out with a basic service, ION Direct, which offers Internet access of up to 1.5Mbps downstream minus voice/fax lines.

"This announcement is aimed at fulfilling the needs of a larger segment of the population," said Tim Donahue, marketing director for Sprint ION.

Donahue said Sprint's original ION offering was too souped-up for many at-home users. "That is at most a business-class premium," he said.

Enterprise employees are a big part of the customer base that Sprint is trying to reach. And more and more of those employees are procuring broadband access for themselves and tying back into corporate systems.

The price point on the new ION services is more appealing in these cases, Donahue said.

Traditional ION xt4 -- with downstream speeds of up to 8Mbps and upstream at 1Mbps -- runs about US$150 per month, while ION xt2 is priced at about $120 per month. Basic Direct service is about $45 per month.

Both the xt4 and xt2 packages contain buckets of long-distance minutes (at different levels), since the ION service runs voice capabilities over the same packet network.

Sprint's push to get a further reach for its DSL is part of the company's larger goal of getting a more comprehensive broadband portfolio, pulling together other technologies.

"At the end of 2001, we anticipate having wireline and wireless reach to 40 percent of U.S. households, and that is a significant footprint which will require build-out of 2,100 central offices," Donahue said. "This strategy involves wireless and wireline technologies as complementary to one another."

Sprint's ION broadband offerings, however, are now available in only 12 markets, including several Texas markets, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

Sprint competitors such as WorldCom's UUNET are also in the race to come up with complete broadband packages to push at large corporate customers.

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