Sprint tries to revive push-to-talk again
Launches CDMA offering, two years after dropping previous Qchat service, as it starts to plan for iDEN shutdown
Published: 29 September, 2011
The tortured history of Sprint's push-to-talk service continues with another attempt to find a worthy successor to Nextel's former star turn. Sprint Direct Connect will sever ties with the legacy iDEN network and promises a faster, more functional experience.
When Sprint acquired Nextel, the iDEN operator had built its fortune on the efficient and distinctive PTT offering, but declining quality and lack of investment saw customers fleeing the older network. Multiple attempts to rework PTT for a more modern, CDMA implementation failed to deliver the same magic as the Nextel service, as Sprint ran into technical hitches, patent challenges, iDEN migration issues and other obstacles. And despite moves to enhance PTT for a multimedia era with 'push to all' strategies, it was increasingly challenged by newer ways of communicating instantly and within groups - messaging hubs and social networks.
Undeterred, Sprint is having another go, focusing PTT firmly on industrial and enterprise users rather than consumers, and cutting all ties with the legacy iDEN platform. Like its previous efforts, the latest version of the walkie-talkie-style offering runs on a Qualcomm platform and it will launch with rugged handsets from Kyocera and Motorola.
Sprint Direct Connect will come with broadband CDMA data speeds and a coverage footprint which matches that of the cellco's CDMA voice. Features include text message attachments on calls; Group Connect, for communicating with up to 20 other users at once; TeamDC, for communicating with up to 200 other subscribers; NextMail, which sends a recorded message via email or text; and availability notifications.
In April, Sprint signed a roaming deal with SouthernLINC Wireless to extend voice, data and PTT calls across its southern footprint. In 2012, international versions of the service will also begin rolling out, making international PTT calls possible.
"We've seen steadily increasing demand for faster data speeds, better and broader coverage, and more applications on push to talk devices," said Paget Alves, president of the Sprint Business unit, in a statement. "Sprint Direct Connect is designed to solve all three."
The new handsets will be the Kyocera DuraMax, a military-spec device; the Kyocera DuraCore, also a rugged device; and the Sprint Direct Connect Android handset from Motorola.
Sprint originally promised to bring PTT to CDMA all of five years ago, but launches were delayed when Qchat became implicated in Qualcomm's long running patent disputes with Broadcom and Nokia. It finally went live in mid-2008, having seen rival services from Verizon enter the field. But in late 2009 it stopped supporting the CDMA Qchat, returning to iDEN for its PTT needs. However, that is no longer a long term option since Sprint aims to phase out iDEN as part of its Network Vision modernization program.