Sprint Begins High Speed Mobile Services

Sprint Corp. said on Thursday it has begun selling high-speed wireless services to laptop computer users and would have services in business districts and airports in 34 U.S. markets in July, making it the second U.S. mobile operator to offer such services.

Sprint -- the third biggest U.S. mobile provider which plans to buy Nextel Communications Inc. in the current quarter -- said charges for the service would range from $40 a month to $90.

Its $80 monthly fee for unlimited use is the same as that of bigger rival Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc.

Sprint said it plans to provide the service in 14 broad market areas covering a population of about 92 million in the third quarter and expects to serve markets with 143 million people by the fourth quarter, expanding to coverage of 150 million potential customers in early 2006.

Sprint is following in the footsteps of Verizon Wireless, the country's second biggest wireless provider which started its service in 2003. Verizon has services in about 50 markets using the same high-speed technology, known as EV-DO.

Both companies, along with most large operators around the world, are working on making their networks faster in the hope of boosting their revenue by encouraging people to use phones for everything from watching video clips to reading e-mail.

Verizon plans coverage for 150 million potential customers or half the population by the end of 2005. Cingular Wireless, a venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth Corp. plans to have high-speed services in about 15 to 20 markets by year end.

Sprint plans to sell new handsets and applications based on the higher speed network by the end of the fourth quarter.

It already has agreements to sell laptop cards from Novatel Wireless Inc. and Sierra Wireless Inc.

Sprint said it expects its latest service to provide Web access average speeds of 400 to 700 kilobits per second, about six times faster than its current network.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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