Following Sunday’s confirmation on Sprint’s DirectConnect Now Android app, more key details regarding Sprint’s long-term plans for Sprint’s QChat powered DirectConnect service over CDMA have been confirmed via additional internal employee documentation. The documentation details increases in coverage and how International DirectConnect will work once the iDEN network is decommissioned next year.
Starting with the coverage increase later this year, Sprint will be expanding Sprint DirectConnect service to roaming coverage and roll out support for slower 1xRTT data networks, in a nod to Sprint’s previous ReadyLink PTT service made famous by the former Sanyo handsets without the need for the custom hardware that made ReadyLink a poor alternative to Nextel push to talk and the key example held up for the failure of Push to Talk over cellular. The relaunch of Sprint DirectConnect has so far experienced improved customer satisfaction compared to the previous version that was shelved in 2009.
The increase in coverage as part of the larger Network Vision initiative is expected to cover almost the entire country in Sprint DirectConnect coverage when taking into account expanded roaming coverage while covering three times the square mileage of the current Nextel iDEN network, which was formerly held up as the superior network in terms of total coverage before issues with congestion and performance made it into a highly criticized service that led to an exodus of customers.
Eventually, the support for both 1xRTT data and the increase in roaming coverage will allow Sprint to position the nascent, higher performance Sprint DirectConnect service as the PTT service that current and even former customers have waited for since the Sprint-Nextel purchase and merger all those years ago, before years of integration and network issues doomed the idealized vision and led to Sprint’s current position. Sprint isn’t necessarily betting the farm on Sprint DirectConnect the way it is on LTE, but it is making the new and revived QChat-based service a key part of its Network Vision initiative.
First, International DirectConnect will allow for 1-to-1 DirectConnect communication between users in NII Latin America markets such as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile while in native Sprint coverage, but will more than likely not be able to roam as was previously possible with iDEN handsets, as the unaffiliated NII Holdings has rolled out Sprint-compatible QChat on mixed-mode HSPA and CDMA EVDO Rev. A in the aforementioned markets.
Sprint has yet to confirm if it will be possible to roam internationally with Sprint DirectConnect handsets or the DirectConnect Now app to access DirectConnect service in lieu of more expensive standard calls in NII International markets that support Sprint DirectConnect calls from the US and such roaming had previously been a key reason that Nextel service was popular in US markets with large Hispanic/Latino populations, as an example.