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Mobile

Sprint to open up wireless messaging

The carrier says wireless customers next month will be able to send Web-based messages to phones not on Sprint's network, and says more additions are in store.

    Sprint said Thursday that it is set to allow its wireless customers to send text messages to mobile phones operating on the networks of other carriers.

    Starting April 1, Sprint's wireless customers will be able to send Web-based messages through a so-called Intercarrier Messaging feature of the company's PCS Short Mail service. The technology for the service is provided by MobileSpring, a provider of wireless messaging technology, and Illuminet, a subsidiary of VeriSign.

    But other wireless carriers have beaten Sprint to the punch in this area. AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless already offer similar services to their customers. The use of text messaging has been on the rise recently, as carriers try to drive customers onto their new networks with enhanced, multimedia services.

    With Sprint's Short Mail service, customers are able to send new messages or choose from a list of "canned," or pre-set, messages, such as "Call me ASAP," to other Sprint PCS customers. The service allows people to communicate silently at times when it is inconvenient to make or receive a call.

    The new service expands on this technology, and the ability for customers of other carriers to receive messages will vary by service provider, Sprint said.

    Sprint also said this was the first of many planned additions to its text-messaging service. Future plans include mini-address books, more pre-set messages, the ability to save messages and a wider variety of graphic icons.

    "The shift in revenue mix to data and Internet services dovetails with Sprint's key assets," Sprint Chief Operating Officer Ron Lemay said during a presentation at Merrill Lynch's Global Communications Investor conference in New York on Wednesday. Lemay was also upbeat about Sprint's development of other multimedia services for wireless customers, as video and pictures become available with new, color screen phones and 3G services.

    Sprint plans to launch its third-generation network by the middle of this year, a move that will further enhance text messaging and integrate messaging services into games, newsgroups and other applications.