Editors' note: Because evaluating wireless coverage requires experience with the network in a wide variety of physical locations, CNET does not rate wireless carriers. We can, however, tell you everything you need to know about the major carriers. We invite your feedback and ratings in our user opinions section. The more input we get from around the U.S., the better our users can evaluate coverage at a national level. For more carrier information, please see CNET's Quick Guide.
Following a 2005 merger Sprint Nextel is now the third largest wireless carrier and the second largest CDMA carrier in the United States. The company is retaining separate Sprint and Nextel brands for the time being. Sprint began wireless service under its brand in 1995, and Nextel was founded in 1987.
Things you should know:
- This carrier offers an unlimited calling plan.
- Sprint was the second major carrier to offer a 3G (EV-DO) network. However, coverage is limited to urban areas.
- Nextel phones offer a strong set of business-friendly features, including adding a second line to a handset. Also, the carrier pioneered push-to-talk technology with its Direct Connect (now called Walkie-Talkie) service.
- Among the major carriers, Sprint is the sole provider of Sanyo phones. Its handset lineup also includes a fair number of Samsung and LG handsets with a varied selection of smartphones.
- Sprint's Power Pack plans have extended night and weekend hours. Nextel offers plans with unlimited incoming calls.
- Sprint's CDMA network and Nextel's iDEN network are distinct technologies that use separate networks with different coverage areas.
- International CDMA and iDEN coverage has a smaller footprint than GSM, though the carrier now offers dual-mode CDMA/GSM handsets.
- Subscribers: 50.5 million
- Coverage: Sprint has CDMA coverage in every state, but coverage in Alaska is limited to analog roaming only. Nextel's iDEN network has coverage in every state except Alaska and Montana. As with all carriers, individual coverage will vary by location. For international coverage CDMA roaming is available in 26 countries while Nextel iDEN roaming is available in 10 countries.
- Technology: CDMA, 1xRTT, iDEN
- 3G network: Yes, EV-DO
- Streaming video service: Yes, Sprint Power Vision
- Music download service: Yes, Sprint Music Store
- Push-to-talk: Available, depending on phone model
- Prepay plans: Yes, through the carrier's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile subsidiaries
- Family plans: Yes