Currently, Sprint offers two kinds of push-to-talk communications, one through its Nextel division that uses the iDEN network, and one on Sprint itself that uses CDMA, but only in a limited fashion.
To improve the Sprint side of the equation, the company is signing agreements with Qualcomm and with Lucent Technologies to extend its existing push-to-talk service with Nextel to Sprint phones.
To accomplish this, Sprint has licensed Qualcomms QChat technology. The new phones and the service will be available in 2008.
"What the QChat technology is going to enable us to have is push-to-talk over the CDMA network instead of iDEN at Nextel," said Sprint spokesperson Scott Sloat.
"What that means is that now if Im a Sprint customer on a Sprint network, what I can do in 2008 is be able to walkie-talkie people on the CDMA network and on the iDEN network," he said.
He said that the new service will give both Sprint and Nextel customers the ability to interoperate when using push-to-talk.
"Theres no downside. Anyone who wants it has another option available to use. Now you need to get the iDEN service. With this you wont be confined to the Nextel service," Sloat said.
Sloat said that the new push-to-talk feature wont be available until 2008 because it will take Sprint that long to build out its new EV-DO Rev. A network.
"We cant do it until our Rev A technology is available across the network," he said.
Sprints current push-to-talk service, Readylink, uses the standard CDMA network.
Sloat said that as a result, it suffered from serious latency problems. Sloat also said that he didnt know whether Nextels popular Direct Talk feature, which allows direct communications between handsets, would also be available with the Sprint service.
However, Sprint and Nextel are not the only game in town when it comes to push-to-talk. Both Verizon Wireless and Cingular have started offering the service as well.
In the case of Verizon Wireless, the company looks on push-to-talk as necessary to offer its customers a complete suite of services.
"You want seamless connectivity," said spokesperson Brenda Raney. "This is about wireless connectivity. Push-to-talk is one feature of a portfolio," she said.
Raney said that Verizon already has three push-to-talk handsets on the market aimed at a variety of customers.
"We see it in multiple verticals such as construction, the government sector, any loud environment," said David Brown, Verizons manager of product development for push to talk.
"They use it for locating other workers, finding someone available," he said. "Theres been some interest responder units and security."