Sprint on Sunday will launch a new rugged wireless phone along with a next-generation push-to-talk service called Sprint Direct Connect that offers speedy data capabilities.
The ruggedized Kyocera DuraMax, which will be available on Sunday for $69.99 with a two year service agreement, is the first Sprint handset to use the new PTT (Push-to-Talk) service.
The DuraMax is designed to be the workhorse for the new Sprint Direct Connect service, which will be supported by two more phones that are slated to ship in the fourth quarter.
The rugged phone set for release next week has a 2-in. display, a 3.2 megapixel camera and is designed to meet high-level military standards for resisting dust, operating at extreme temperature levels, and for vibration and water immersion.
The new upgraded Sprint PTT service will gradually transfer the older Nextel Direct Connect PTT service from the iDEN network to Sprint's CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) network to give faster 3G data speeds to users, generally in the 500 Kbps range. The iDen network has average data throughput speeds of just 20 Kbps to 30 Kbps.
The older iDEN network will be phased out in 2013 as part of Sprint's plan to consolidate its networks with new equipment that serves multiple radio bands and technologies.
Sprint today said it will assist customers with migration plans to new feature-rich phones, such as the new DuraMax, over Sprint Direct Connect.
Sprint will also sell Nextel Direct Connect phones until iDen is sunseted, a spokesman said via email.
The Sprint Direct Connect coverage area will grow to match Sprint's CDMA voice coverage area, an increase of almost three times the square miles covered by iDen today, by early 2012, Sprint said.
Also in 2012, an international PTT calling plan will begin rolling out, Sprint said.
Sprint is retaining most of the services familiar to iDen PTT users, such as Direct Connect for instant one-to-one PTT calling nationwide with any other Direct Connect customers. In addition, the newer phones will have high-speed data access, high-resolution cameras and Bluetooth, Sprint said.
PTT calling is mostly used in the services and construction businesses. It's similar to walkie-talkie communication used in military and emergency responder settings.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.