Sprint details Q4 CDMA Direct Connect launch plans and handsets, quietly waves goodbye to iDEN

We're guessing that this isn't the riveting Q4 announcement that Dan Hesse promised us last week at Sprint's Kansas headquarters, but it's a shock to the system nonetheless. The outfit's legacy iDEN network is still kicking around (and in turn, eating up valuable resources to run it), and while we're told that those push-to-talk users are some of the most loyal, it looks as if 2012 will be the year they're forced to try something new. The company's CDMA-based Direct Connect alternative is officially slated to launch this winter, with those who buy in treated to triple the square miles of the company's current push-to-talk coverage area, broadband capabilities and a smattering of new devices.

The Kyocera DuraMax and DuraCore will be joined by an unannounced Motorola smartphone, all of which should be rugged enough to handle the expected field work. Furthermore, Sprint will be adding international push-to-talk (alongside "additional capabilities") in early 2012, and users should see a marked improvement in in-building coverage. Finally, we're told that voice and data capacity is expected to increase significantly as Sprint leverages its spectrum holdings in 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and -- through its relationship with Clearwire -- 2.5GHz. And with that, we'd say your iDEN handset stash just became quite the collector's item. Full details are tucked away in the PR just past the break.

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Sprint Prepares for 4Q Launch of Sprint Direct Connect with Feature-Rich, CDMA Handsets

First phones come packed with broadband capabilities and next-generation functionality; New phones will operate on push-to-talk footprint that's triple the size of Sprint's current one

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), July 25, 2011 - Sprint (NYSE: S) today announced the initial phones it plans to deploy in the fourth quarter when the company launches its next-generation, push-to-talk service powered by Sprint's broadband CDMA network. The new service – Sprint® Direct Connect – will deliver higher bandwidth capacity to keep up with customers' data demands and is expected to extend the company's push-to-talk coverage to almost triple the square miles of the company's current push-to-talk offering.

The Sprint Direct Connect phones to be introduced this fall will be the Kyocera DuraCore and the Kyocera DuraMax. As previously announced, a third handset -- a Motorola smartphone -- will be described closer to the launch of Sprint Direct Connect. The devices will feature most of the capabilities available on current Sprint push-to-talk phones plus next-generation, push-to-talk applications and functionality. Specific availability dates and pricing for each device will be released later.

"Sprint is thrilled to launch Sprint Direct Connect with a strong starting lineup of phones," said Fared Adib, Sprint vice president of product development. "These devices represent the new gold standard in push-to-talk technology."

Devices in 2011

Kyocera DuraMax brings customers advanced technology wrapped in a rugged exterior with a clamshell form factor. It offers military-grade durability, including water resistance when submerged up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. DuraMax comes with an integrated 3.2-megapixel camera and camcorder. The 32GB expandable microSD memory card slot provides the storage capacity required to manage large files on-the-go. Additional key features include:

* 2.0-inch QVGA TFT main display
* Military standard 810G specifications for dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain and immersion
* Encased in rubber, non-slip Dura-Grip® material for sure hold and extra durability
* Stereo Bluetooth® wireless technology
* 2.5mm stereo headphone jack (supports PTT headsets)
* 1GB microSD memory card
* Large-font menu option
* GPS navigation enabled
* Supports SMS and MMS messaging and third-party data applications

Kyocera DuraCore is an affordable, high-impact solution for a mobile workforce that relies on push-to-talk. Additional features of this rugged, clamshell-style phone:

* Military standard 810G specifications for dust, shock and vibration
* Encased in rubber, non-slip Dura-Grip material for sure hold and extra durability
* Bi-directional speakerphone
* Bluetooth wireless technology
* 2.5mm mono headphone jack (supports PTT headsets)
* Large-font menu option
* GPS navigation enabled
* Supports SMS and MMS messaging and third-party data applications

In addition to Direct Connect® and group calling options, the devices are expected to enable Land Mobile Radio (LMR) interoperability, simultaneous data and push to talk, and availability notification. In early 2012, Sprint Direct Connect will offer additional capabilities, including international push-to-talk.

Sprint continues to involve developers in the creation of new applications through its Sprint Gets Rugged application developers program. The program provides information, support and tools needed for developers to port applications to Sprint Direct Connect devices and to create innovative applications.

Sprint Gets Rugged application developer program also will be featured at the Sprint Open Solutions Conference, Nov. 2-4, in Santa Clara, Calif. For more information or to register for the conference, please visit

More information on the Sprint Gets Rugged application developers program can be found at

Better Coverage and Capacity

Sprint Direct Connect marks a tangible initial benefit of Network Vision, Sprint's blueprint to deploy a cost-effective and innovative network. Announced in December, Network Vision is expected to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network, resulting in enhanced coverage, quality and speed; better network flexibility; reduced operating costs; and improved environmental sustainability. The plan includes a complete upgrade of Sprint's wireless networks accompanied by changes in device chipsets and network infrastructure.

The expected benefits of Network Vision to Sprint's push-to-talk customers will be wide-ranging:

* Push-to-talk coverage footprint is planned to increase to nearly 2.7 million square miles and is expected to cover a population of 309 million (with the addition of 1xRTT and roaming coverage) – an increase from the iDEN network's 908,370 square miles covering a population 278 million.
* In-building coverage is expected to improve significantly through investment in the most advanced CDMA technology and radio equipment.
* Voice and data capacity is expected to increase significantly as Sprint will be able to fully leverage its industry leading spectrum holdings in 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and – through its relationship with Clearwire – 2.5GHz.

"Our customers are asking for broadband push-to-talk now," said Paget Alves, president-Sprint Business. "We've seen steadily increasing demand for faster data speeds, better and broader coverage, and more applications on push-to-talk devices. Sprint Direct Connect is designed to solve for all three and is expected to come with sub-second push-to-talk call setup time initially in Sprint CDMA Rev. A (3G) coverage areas. Sub-second call setup is expected to expand across the United States with the implementation of Network Vision."

During the nationwide implementation of Network Vision, Sprint expects to continue operating the iDEN network at current best-ever performance levels. As the customer base shifts to more broadband-centric push-to-talk applications on the CDMA network and Sprint launches Sprint Direct Connect, iDEN cell sites are expected to be phased out in 2013. Sprint account executives will work with customers to provide a smooth transition with personalized upgrade assistance. Sprint also plans to offer current Nextel Direct Connect customers attractive device pricing to help transition to Sprint Direct Connect.