Sprint PCS, one of the smallest of the handful of nationwide US wireless operators, plans to be the first to deliver third-generation (3G) wireless services, beginning this summer.
The nationwide rollout is already two-thirds complete, according to chairman and chief executive William Esrey, who claimed that, at the time of the launch, the CDMA2000 will be "the largest 3G network in the world".
Sprint's plan to launch the network was welcomed by analysts. "Immediate nationwide coverage means being able to stay connected away from home and that's when you are more likely to need the initial wireless data services," said Adam Guy, senior analyst at the Strategis Group.
Other US operators are rolling out similar capabilities market by market. Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless operator in the US, which is part owned by Vodafone, is deploying the same 3G technology as Sprint and is expected to launch into its first markets shortly.
But to Europeans both companies' definition of 3G will look a lot like the 2.5G GPRS services deployed across Europe.
CDMA2000 networks and phones will offer data services at peak speeds of 144Kbps, and actual speeds at less than half that comparable with GPRS transmission speeds.
One US operator, Voicestream Wireless, has already launched its nationwide GPRS service.
Real 3G speeds of 2Mbps and above will follow on the Sprint network within two years as a software only upgrade, claimed Esrey.
According to Guy, Sprint is lining up its initial 3G offering to target the business market where the highest average revenues per user can be found.
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