Sprint has teamed up with Google, and is now the first carrier to offer Google’s voice over IP-based Google Voice service on its Code Division Multiple Access-based smartphones. Sprint customers can now use their existing phone number as their Google Voice number, and the service will come pre-installed on the Samsung-made Nexus S 4G smartphone that Samsung and Google introduced today.
With Google Voice, Sprint customers can have a single contact number; a single call can be made to ring their mobile phone, home phone and office, or a total of up to six devices, or calls to all phones can be routed to just their mobile phone. Users can also set up the service to block certain numbers, send certain numbers straight to voice mail or route only certain numbers to one device-only calls from the boss to their office phone, for example.
They can also receive transcribed voice mail, read or listen to voice mail online, and read, send and search text messages online. Customizations, such as personalized greetings, are also possible, and using their mobile phone, Sprint customers can enjoy super-low international rates-2 cents a minute to Argentina or 7 cents a minute to Zambia, for example.
To sign up, Sprint customers can visit google.com/voice/sprint and click a box to have their Sprint phone number used as a Google Voice number. Google takes care of notifying Sprint.
“As part of our partnership with Google, our customers will appreciate having the easiest set-up experience of any wireless carrier for Google Voice across all of our CDMA phones, using their existing Sprint phone number,” Kevin McGinnis, vice president of product and technology development at Sprint, said in a statement. “It’s now easier than ever to truly live a mobile lifestyle with the ability to manage multiple devices through intelligent call routing and online controls using just one phone number-your existing Sprint number.”
The Google Voice application is free, but to use it, Sprint customers will need to have an Everything Data plan with Any Mobile, Anytime service, which starts at $70 a month and requires a $10 Premium Data plan.
Sprint customers who already have a Google Voice number can display that number on their Sprint phone, without the need for the separate application.
On Jan. 25, Google announced that number portability had become a part of Google Voice, so users could keep their longtime phone numbers and apply them to their Google Voice accounts. That ability, however, was offered with a one-time $20 fee, and activating it resulted in the termination of a user’s contract with their carrier and potentially an early-termination fee-$350 should Verizon, for example, be that carrier.
The perk for Sprint subscribers comes as competitor AT&T has announced plans to purchase T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock. The move is expected to help AT&T roll out a 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network. Sprint was the first major U.S. carrier to offer 4G services, offering WiMax covering via partner Clearwire in 2008. Despite being slower to go live, LTE was chosen as the preferred flavor of 4G by Sprint’s competitors, and in Dec. 2010, Verizon Wireless launched the beginnings of its 4G LTE network. A month earlier, T-Mobile began offering 4G service based on HSPA+ (Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) technology, with the plan of later moving to LTE, and AT&T, now also offering HSPA+ speeds, has long been in the process of setting up a 4G LTE network expected to go live later this year.
“This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. “It will improve network quality, and it will bring advanced LTE capabilities to more than 294 million people.” At the end of 2010, Sprint had nearly 50 million customers.
Sprint executives have also been vocal about the possibility of rolling out an LTE network alongside the Sprint WiMax network-a move that has stirred rumors of a possible merger with T-Mobile. Reportedly, however, the carrier was outbid by AT&T.