Backers of Sprints 3G Net Ready With Devices, Services

Despite headline-grabbing features such as "Charlie's Angels" ring tones and miniature phone cameras, Sprint PCS Group's new, third-generation network is focused on the enterprise.

Sprint Business Connection Supports Two-Way Synchronization
Despite headline-grabbing features such as "Charlies Angels" ring tones and miniature phone cameras, Sprint PCS Groups new, third-generation network is focused on the enterprise, and vendors are lining up products and services to support the nationwide launch.

In addition to Sprint PCS rollout this week of its 3G PCS Vision CDMA 1X network, the Overland Park, Kan., carrier will announce the Sprint PCS Business Connection Enterprise Edition. Based on the new system Seven Release 2 software from Seven Networks Inc., Business Connection supports two-way synchronization with e-mail, calendar and contact information in Microsoft Corp.s Exchange and IBMs Lotus divisions Notes programs.

Currently, Business Connection is hosted in Sprints data centers, but officials said the company will have a behind-the-firewall version of the software within the year for enterprise customers that feel more comfortable hosting their own.

Sevens software now supports Palm Inc.s Palm OS, and it will run on Handspring Inc.s new Treo 300 smart phone. Versions for Java 2 Micro Edition and Microsofts Pocket PC operating systems will be available by years end.

Sprint this week will begin selling its own branded version of the Treo 300, the first Handspring product to support CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, for $499.

"It comes out of the box with an always-on data connection as part of its configuration," said Ed Colligan, chief operating officer at Handspring, in Mountain View, Calif. "I find myself using [Handsprings] Blazer browser a lot more now that I know that its always there."

Sprint also plans to team with large systems integrators for access to anything more complex than basic, horizontal applications such as e-mail. Sprint last week announced consulting alliances with Accenture Ltd., Ingram Micro Inc., IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and PwC Consulting—all of which will work on customized solutions for large customers, Sprint officials said.

Such services are expected to become more mainstream.

"I think what youll see over time is operators offering a small portfolio of mobile data services," said Billy Alvarado, a product manager at Seven, in Redwood City, Calif.

Sprint has kept corporate customers in mind with its pricing plans, although some of those plans remain vague.

Individual monthly PCS Free and Clear with Vision plans range from $44.99 to $119.99 for combinations of voice and data communications. But for business customers, the company will also offer a promotional deal for unlimited usage—$49.99 per month for the first three months and $99.99 thereafter for a one-year contract. Officials said they werent sure how long the promotion will last.

Since the industry first started talking about high-speed wireless networks, business customers have maintained that unlimited usage plans are key.

"If you use it very much and you buy anything other than an all-you-can-eat package, youre probably going to get buried in charges," said Erich Berman, advanced technology consultant at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., in Milwaukee.

Verizon Wireless Inc., which offers CDMA 1X services in several U.S. cities but not nationwide, currently offers an unlimited data plan for $99.99 per month—with some exceptions. Customers may not, for instance, host wireless MP3 servers, said officials at the Bedminster, N.J., company. AT&T Wireless, which offers General Packet Radio Service in several markets, has no immediate plans for an unlimited data plan, said officials in Redmond, Wash.

While details have not been hammered out, Sprint officials said that large enterprises will be able to make deals for unlimited service. The company is also working on a plan to allow business customers to share bandwidth. That plan should be available by years end, officials said.

Related Stories:

  • Commentary: Sprints Vision of the Future is Just That
  • More Wireless Coverage