Sprinting out of the gate with 3G wireless

Sprint PCS plans to be first to launch 3G services in the United States, even as competitors worldwide announce delays.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
Sprint PCS plans to be the first to launch 3G services in the United States, with a limited offering at the end of this year, even as competitors around the world announce delays.

The provider of wireless services also says its network will extend to 4,000 cities by the middle of 2002, and that by 2003 it will offer service capable of sending data at speeds in the millions of kilobytes per second, which would enable applications like sending video clips and digital images to wireless devices.

"We are on track for the fastest 3G deployment," said Sprint PCS spokesman Dan Wilinsky.

So-called 3G is the next generation of phone service that will enable people to surf the Internet, send and receive video e-mails, and even stream video to wireless devices. Most experts agree data will be sent and received at a rate of 144 kilobytes per second and above, compared with today's rate of 14 kilobytes per second.

The company's announcement comes as other telecommunications providers are delaying their own 3G, or third-generation, offerings. Japan Telecom, Telecom Italia and South Korea Telecom are among those that have announced delays.

Most of the companies say they've run into technical problems and that rather than launch services with glitches, they've decided to wait and smooth out the bumps.

Even NTT DoCoMo, Japan's wireless giant that offers the popular I-mode service for the wireless Web and plans to launch a 3G service in May, is rumored to be suffering problems in sending and receiving the bigger data files that are key to 3G services.

Sprint wouldn't say whether it has been experiencing similar technical difficulties.

But some analysts say that given the series of disappointments on the part of other companies, Sprint's schedule must be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

"Sprint may have a wonderful network, but what good is it if you can't access it?" said IDC Wireless Infrastructure Research Manager Shiv Bakhshi.

Handsets capable of using a 3G network for the new applications haven't made it to the United States in bulk yet, for example. Wilinsky, however, said Sprint 3G-ready phones will be introduced in time for the launch of its services.