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Carriers Launch New WLNP-Ready Services

New York – Wireless carriers are positioning themselves to retain and attract new subscribers in the days before wireless local number portability (WLNP) begins in the top 100 markets on Nov. 24.

AT&T Wireless announced the national commercial rollout of its EDGE high-speed data service in the days following Sprint PCS’s launch of push-to-talk (PTT) service.

During COMDEX, being held this week in Las Vegas, AT&T announced the availability of EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution) technology in markets served by the company’s GSM/GPRS network, which reaches around 215 million people, about 6,500 cities and towns, and areas along more than 30,000 miles of major highways, the company said. EDGE is also available in Puerto Rico and Bermuda, with plans to offer the service in the Caribbean in the near future.

AT&T’s EDGE network offers average download speeds of 100-130kbps.

EDGE service is available only with the new Sony-Ericsson GC-82 modem card and the Nokia 6200 EDGE phone. In the next few months, AT&T will offer additional EDGE phones, including the Motorola T725 and Nokia 3200. EDGE phones allow for laptop connectivity and accelerate the speeds of such handset-based services as e-mail and mode entertainment and information services.

Beginning in 2004, AT&T Wireless said EDGE devices will be available from a number of manufacturers including Motorola, NEC, Nokia, palmOne, Research In Motion (RIM), Samsung, Siemens, Sony-Ericsson and others.

The SongEricsson EDGE card is available for $149 with two-year contract. It provides speed bursts of up to 200kbps on the AT&T EDGE network. For customers traveling outside the EDGE coverage area, the modem operates at GPRS speeds offered by AT&T Wireless affiliates and roaming partners in the United States.

AT&T Wireless is offering a variety of EDGE data plans, including an unlimited data plan at $79.99 a month.

In the days before AT&T’s launch, Sprint PCS launched its nationwide PTT service, called ReadyTalk, joining Nextel and Verizon in the PTT market.

Sprint launched throughout all its distribution channels with a pair of Sanyo handsets at $149 with service agreement. One is a clamshell, and the other is a ruggedized version for the business and enterprise market. Both feature color screens. A third Sanyo handset will be available in a few weeks.

Setup time for a PTT call takes less than four seconds, and conversations after that are almost instantaneous, the company said. Service plans include an unlimited use plan for $15 per month.

To date, the Sprint, Nextel and Verizon PTT services are not interoperable.