Sprint today announced it will provide mobile Internet access in at least 60 U.S. metropolitan areas by early 2006 via CDMA EV-DO (evolution data optimized) networks.

Service will begin this month for laptop business customers with one of two Sprint PCS Connection Cards--the AirCard 580 from Sierra Wireless and Novatel Wireless’ Merlin S620--in airports and business districts in 34 markets. The cards, which have a suggested retail price of $249.99, will provide Internet access through Sprint’s CDMA 1xRTT network when outside of EV-DO services areas.

Average EV-DO download speeds are between 400 and 700 kb/s, and peak rates approach 2 Mb/s--up to 10 times faster than data rates achieved with the 1xRTT service. Service plans will range from $40 per month for 40 MB of data--with a $90-per-month cap--to $80 per month for unlimited access.

During the third quarter, Sprint plans to roll out EV-DO services broadly in 14 metropolitan areas with 92 million people. This rollout will expand to another 36 markets during the fourth quarter and will be available to about 150 million people by early 2006.

Sprint plans to introduce EV-DO handsets and applications during the fourth quarter.

"The EV-DO service launch increases the ways Sprint customers can connect when mobile and augments a unique remote access service portfolio consisting of the nationwide PCS 1xRTT network and more than 19,000 Wi-Fi access points in prime locations,” Sprint President and Chief Operating Officer Len Lauer said in a prepared statement. “Through network convergence, customers can get all the access solutions they need by harnessing the benefits of Sprint's diverse wireless networks."