KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sprint Corp. announced its arrival onto the wireless broadband scene on Thursday, more than a year and a half after one of its top rivals, Verizon Wireless, started offering broadband Internet service.
Sprint Corp. plans to provide mobile broadband service to about 150 million people by early next year. The service, using EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) technology, will be available in business districts and airports in 34 markets by the end of this month. It already came online this month in 17 of those markets, including Kansas City.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based company said rates will start at $40 per month for a limited-access plan, and unlimited access will cost business customers about $80 a month.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, began offering its EV-DO service in October 2003 in San Diego and Washington, D.C., then expanded the service into other regions soon thereafter. It currently offers its wireless broadband service in 43 markets.
Cingular Wireless offers a high-speed service using a different technology in six cities and plans to add at least 10 more markets by the end of the year.
Late last month, Sprint told The Associated Press it decided to launch its EV-DO technology in select “dense business corridors” and airports, rather than wait until it could offer the service across entire markets, because of publicity about Verizon’s expansion of its broadband service.
But on Thursday, Oliver Valente, Sprint’s chief technology officer, said the company wanted to wait to offer the service until the required devices were broadly available. Valente said Sprint’s immersion into high-speed wireless service was “timed differently than some of the competition. We think we’re at the right point and right time with deployment.”
“They (Verizon) certainly launched theirs first; there’s no denying that,” said John Polivka, a spokesman for Sprint. “We announced last June we would develop EV-DO by this point in time, and indeed we have done so. We will have substantially closed the gap by the end of this year.”
Lisa Pierce, vice president of Forrester Research Inc., said Thursday that Sprint’s announcement means Verizon no longer has such a stranglehold on wireless broadband.
“It introduces competition into the market, which is always a good thing,” Pierce said.
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