Sprint PCS Launches PTT, Service Well Received

After months of rumor-leaking, Sprint PCS has launched their Push-to-talk (PTT) service to customers today. By no coincidence, the Sprint launch comes just days before WLNP, indicating that if there are Nextel customers who intend to churn, Sprint wants to be sure they have choices beyond Verizon Wireless. Last week, we noticed that Sprint execs were talking up their PTT service, saying that it would be faster than Verizon’s and closer to Nextel’s benchmark. We wondered how Sprint would back up these claims if they used the same technology as Verizon. The answer is they have spent more time optimizing the solution based on Winphoria technology, and also using additional software from Core Mobility and Dynamic Software. The result is call setup latency is 2 – 4 seconds, and intra call latency is < 2 seconds (both about 60% of Verizon, but longer than Nextel). The Sprint launch also eclipses Verizon in respect to the number and capability of the handsets. Verizon offers just one handset with black and white screen, no 1xRTT data, and no BREW, while PCS has two phones at launch, each with color, 1xRTT, and J2ME. The PCS phones are also $50 less than VZW, at $150 each. Both PCS and VZW will have additional handsets to offer before year-end. Sprint loses the edge when it comes to group calling, with a current maximum of 5 callers per group. Apparently the Sprint PCS service has already had hiccups, as the web page for group management was intermittently unavailable this morning. In conclusion, the PCS offer looks very well put together, and superior to Verizon’s, but sustaining the advantage will take effort, since Verizon (et al) will improve PTT services to match. In the US PTT market, there are effectively two benchmarks: Nextel, and the next best solution that is not Nextel. Sprint has just taken the second position.

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