Sprint Nextel today announced an agreement to use Qualcomm’s QChat solution to deliver a CDMA push-to-talk solution in 2008 that will offer similar performance to its legacy Nextel DirectConnect and can interoperate with the push-to-talk users on the former Nextel’s iDEN network.

Sprint currently offers a push-to-talk service known as Ready Link, but it has latency not found with Nextel’s DirectConnect. By using QChat technology integrated by Lucent Technologies over Sprint’s upgraded CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Revision A network, Sprint Nextel expects to close the gap.

“Nextel’s walkie-talkie is pretty much viewed as the industry leader, because it has the shortest call-setup time and latency time,” Sprint Nextel spokesman Scott Sloat said. “The expectation is, with QChat, the high-performance push-to-talk we’ll offer will be on par with that.”

In addition, the QChat push-to-talk service will interoperate with the DirectConnect service, so Sprint Nextel customers will be able to use their push-to-talk function to communicate with fellow users on both the iDEN and CDMA networks—interoperability that is not available with Ready Link, Sloat said.

“It’s really a great thing for our customers,” he said. “So, if I’m a Sprint Nextel customer in 2008, I don’t have to worry about the network; I just have to know what capabilities I want.”

Sprint Nextel has not announced whether the QChat service will have the device-to-device push-to-talk capability that is available with Nextel’s Direct Talk, the off-network service used most by public-safety officials, Sloat said.

The QChat announcement represents “another milestone” in the integration of operations since the merger of Sprint and Nextel, two wireless carriers with networks that use different technology, Sloat said. A hybrid phone that can operate on either network is expected to be available later this year, he said. Sprint Nextel has announced that it is committed to maintaining the iDEN network through 2012.