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3G/HSPA

AT&T, Sprint Duke It Out for Push-to-Talk Subs

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will try to attract Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) iDEN customers who find themselves decommissioned from Sprint's push-to-talk network (P2T) by opening up pre-registration for a P2T offering that AT&T's expected to launch in November.

Sprint, meanwhile, counters that 1 million of these customers have already upgraded to its CDMA network's Direct Connect service.

AT&T and Sprint announced their respective P2T news in dueling press releases Tuesday. Both carriers are one-upping the basic walkie-talkie-like P2T service with additional features like group chat, mobile apps, presence and text messaging.

AT&T will offer six handsets at launch, and its service works over both its 3G HSPA network and its small but growing Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. Companies are invited to sign up for AT&T's early access program, which lets them pre-register and buy discounted P2T smartphones or start a beta version of the service -- free of charge -- until the actual launch.

Sprint has been working on switching its iDEN customers over to its year-old Direct Connect service for months now, as it shuts down its 2G network. The carrier says that its CDMA network now offers three times greater coverage than the legacy iDEN network.

Sprint said 60 percent of the total subscribers who left the post-paid Nextel platform last quarter signed up for its Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)-powered CDMA service, up from 46 percent in the first quarter. Its entire iDEN network will be decommissioned as early as June 30, 2013.

Why this matters
LTE is Sprint's biggest priority right now, and shutting down its iDEN network will give it more spectrum to deploy the 4G network. But it can't afford to keep losing customers in the process. Migrating them to its CDMA network will be an important but more difficult task now that competitors like AT&T are putting on the full-court press. Sprint started with 20 million iDEN customers, but said in April that it's already down to less than 6 million.

For more


— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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