Sprint Nextel introduced the long-awaited Qchat services over its CDMA 1xEV-DO Rev. A network and unveiled two new clamshell push-to-talk, or P2T, devices for the service — the Sanyo Pro-200 and the ruggedized Sanyo Pro-700.

The move to enable P2T services over its CDMA network has been in the works since 2006, when Sprint announced an agreement to use Qualcomm's Qchat solution to deliver services that would offer performance similar to — and ultimately interoperate with — its legacy iDEN-based service. In 2007, Sprint completed the rollout of its EV-DO platform, which includes a voice-over-IP quality-of-service component that will enable Qchat to work with high-speed data applications.

Both Sanyo devices are now available for purchase by large business customers through the Sprint direct sales force in Colorado and Kansas. The carrier will continue to test the performance of the network and devices and roll out Qchat on a nationwide basis accordingly, said David Owens, director of product commercialization for Sprint Nextel.

The devices offer features previously not available on the iDEN network. Single number option, for instance, lets subscribers use the same phone number for both voice and P2T calls. Users also have the ability to block or allow incoming one-to-one P2T calls. In addition, a missed call notification function enables users to receive a notification when they miss a P2T call, call alert or group call. Moreover, Qchat users can attach one of several preset text messages, such as “please stop by,” to call alerts sent to other Sanyo Pro phones.

Another new feature is the addition of Sprint Mobile Sync, an online tool that lets users manage their contact information online, including setting up groups for P2T calls as well as for text and voice messaging. It also includes automatic synchronization with the phone and full backup of contacts.

The Pro-200 includes Bluetooth, messaging capabilities and mobile e-mail. The device will be available for $50 with a two-year service agreement and $50 mail-in rebate. The Pro-700 meets the military's standards for dust, shock and vibration and is available in Colorado and Kansas for $70 with a two-year agreement and $50 mail-in rebate.

Sprint also revealed that more Qchat phones are on the horizon. The LG LX400 will feature Bluetooth, a 1.3-megapixel camera, GPS and noise reduction capability. The Samsung Z400 will feature a rugged shell that also meets military standards for dust, shock and vibration. Bluetooth, GPS and Sprint Navigation services will be supported, along with a 1.3-megapixel camera. The Motorola V950 will become the vendor giant's first non-iDEN P2T device and will include a rugged body shell, 2-megapixel camera, microSD slot, external media player and internal GPS transceiver. However, Sprint hasn't revealed when these devices will be introduced commercially.

Qchat services will be priced the same as iDEN DirectConnect service. And to assure existing iDEN customers that Sprint Nextel is committed to that network, the operator announced plans to introduce a Wi-Fi/iDEN-supported BlackBerry device that is expected to hit the market later this year. Wi-Fi is expected to help improve the dismal data transmission speeds on the iDEN network.

Sprint officials ultimately hope that Qchat will allow the company to replicate what Nextel was doing successfully early on: selling total solution packages. Qchat will enable Sprint to sell more than just voice P2T services and ultimately provide one-button data services such as push-to-text or push-to-data for sending pictures and blueprints, but devices aren't ready for these capabilities yet.