Sprint Holding Back On EV-DO Offering

The Washington Post has yet another writeup about Verizon’s new EV-DO launch in DC and San Diego (which we wrote about on Monday – wondering if it was the second coming of Metricom’s Ricochet). Alan Reiter, though, picked up on a few important points made in the Washington Post piece that most other articles on the topic didn’t touch. The Post gets Sprint PCS to say that they’re not that interested in EV-DO right now, and wouldn’t look to do an upgrade for at least a couple of years. Instead, they’re focused on WiFi (as can be seen from their recent announcements). Reiter points out that this means Verizon is going to have the cellular broadband market to themselves for a while. The GSM players are slowly moving to EDGE which will still be noticeably slower than EV-DO. If we ignore the smaller players like Monet and assume that Verizon Wireless can continue to rollout EV-DO fairly rapidly in major metropolitan areas, it’s a good point. The issue, then, is whether or not this is a smart play by Sprint PCS. WiFi has certainly gotten much of the hype, but if it starts losing users to a wide-area solution like EV-DO, they’re going to have to rush to catch up. At the very least, it would make sense to do some hedging by running some tests and getting familiar with the technology in real-world environments. I’m still a bit skeptical of how well Verizon’s EV-DO offering will work. Reiter’s early tests suggest download speeds that are slower than even the lowered “expected” speeds Verizon announced, along with pitiful download speeds – and that’s before many people are even using the system. Overall, it looks like the other carriers have decided that it’s too early for this market, and they might as well let Verizon Wireless test the field and take all the first arrows.

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