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In New Orleans today Sprint touted its Network Vision infrastructure plan and its Direct Connect Now phone app. Sprint says their Android app will bring push-to-talk functionality and interoperability to smartphones.

Sprint will continue to have hardware-enabled Direct Connect CDMA phones in its portfolio, but the new App will deliver PTT functionality using a variety of smartphones.

Sprint says the App delivers interoperability with coworkers who are using true PTT handsets.

Sprint’s narrowband iDEN service is on track to be shut down before the end of this year. Sprint will shift all iDEN users to its 3G CDMA network, on 850 MHz and PCS bands. There’s no word on a release date for the PTT app, but Sprint will be making it available in Google Play.

Meanwhile, Sprint has said it will launch their new FD-LTE network in six major cities in a month or two.

Sprint’s LTE deployment will begin with a pair of 5MHz channels in the 1.9GHz band, versus Verizon with a pair of 10MHz channels. But Sprint is looking at two other rich sources of spectrum; frequencies in the 800MHz band, currently being used for the iDEN service, and later utilize partner Clearwire’s 2.6 GHznetwork, set to go commercial early next year. Clearwire plans to utilze single frequency TD-LTE on their spectrum.

At each Network Vision site, the existing 2G/3G equipment is being removed and replaced with new gear that will offer significantly faster 3G performance as well as LTE, according to Sprint. The project is on track, more than 700 sites on the air, construction in progress on more than 3,000 and zoning completed for about 9,500 sites, say Sprint officials.

Sprint will reduce tower hardware with multi-mode radios and antennas, lowering maintenance costs. At the top of the tower, in the same radio, Sprint will have 1.9 LTE, 1.9 CDMA, 800 CDMA and in the future 800 LTE. A separate radio and antenna may provide LTE service from Clearwire.

Sprint says LTE deployment will be rapid. The first markets will be launching in mid- 2012 and will be largely complete by the end of 2013. User devices will be available for launch in mid 2012. Sprint is working with Qualcomm on device chips. Sprint says they will be selling WiMAX devices through 2012.

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