Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) today became the first major U.S. carrier to launch faster CDMA technology, but initial users will have to use notebooks if they want speedier data downloads as the operator isn't launching any handsets until early 2007.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint opened its first CDMA Rev A market today in San Diego. It plans to light up 20 more markets by the end of 2006, covering around 40 million people. (See Sprint & Verizon Push 3G.)

"CDMA EV-DO Revision A" is a radio network upgrade to existing EV-DO systems, which are based on the earlier Revision O standard. Revision A is expected to crank peak burst rates up to 3.1 Mbit/s on the downlink and 1.8 Mbit/s on the uplink, using a 1.25MHz channel. Sprint says that the new network will offer faster average download speeds of 450 to 800 Kbit/s, with average upload speeds of 300 to 400 Kbit/s. Typical download speeds for current EV-DO networks are in the 300 to 500Kbit/s range. So the upgrade will mean faster wireless access to email and other applications for the enterprise user. (See Users See Mobility Boost in Faster 3G.)

Vendors such as Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW) already have Rev A PC cards ready for the service. A spokesman for Sprint tells Unstrung that Rev A-compliant handsets will be available in the first quarter of 2007. (See Q Gets Mail.)

Sprint clearly wanted bragging rights for this latest wireless upgrade, especially since its major CDMA rival, Verizon Wireless , beat it with the first EV-DO launch in September 2003. (See Verizon Catches Data Wave.)

The next real big leap in broadband wireless, however, is likely to be Sprint's launch of its mobile WiMax network at the end of 2007 and early 2008. (See Sprint Goes WiMax.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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