In Depth: Sprint Hybrid Network Questions Answered

Sprint’s upcoming Hybrid Network launch, set for November 5, has many people asking about plan specifics and phone details. We’ll answer most questions with the latest details from Sprint. Read more…

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While Sprint has been trickling out Motorola ic502 handsets as a retention option for the past couple of weeks, customers will not be able to order these Hybrid phones officially until the 5th (with stores officially launching on the 12th). That is when Sprint will begin Direct Ship sales of such devices.

For those of you that don’t know, Sprint Hybrid Network phones are new phones that tap both the Sprint PCS and the Nextel network. They rely on Sprint PCS’ network for voice and data, while using the Nextel iDEN network for Walkie Talkie functionality. This allows Nextel customers to move to Sprint PCS service without losing Walkie Talkie functionality.

Currently, the ic502 will launch with the ic402, a non-camera variant. These two phones will be paired with the ic902 early next year. The ic902 is a more multimedia variant which we have covered previously.

Sprint will actively promote the Hybrid Network in 24 markets in the fourth quarter, with national promotion of the Hybrid network (and TV ad campaigns) rolling out at the start of next year.

Both Sprint PCS and Nextel customers will be able to use Hybrid Network phones without migration between Sprint PCS and Nextel billing systems. All existing Sprint PCS plans can use the Hybrid Network without changing plans, and most Nextel plans can use hybrid network phones without a plan change. Sprint estimates that less than 20% of Nextel subscribers will have to change plans, due to having extremely old plans that are not compatible with the Hybrid Network.

There are certain circumstances that customers will have to receive two bills, however. Specifically, Sprint PCS customers on a family plan are the most likely to receive two bills, one for the family plan lines, and one for the Hybrid phone line. However, this is simply logistical, no Sprint customer will be double-billed for Hybrid phone services or features.

Nextel customers will also be in for a learning curve on voicemail… Nextel plan holders will be migrated to the Sprint PCS voicemail system.

Hybrid Network phones are Sprint PCS-first. All functionality on data-sides of the device are re-routed through the Sprint PCS system, even if a customer has a Nextel account. Because of this, Nextel-dependent GPS tracking systems are not compatible. Sprint will be using gpsOne on the devices, and the Sprint Business Mobility Framework will be used to migrate Nextel GPS tracking customers over to Sprint CDMA. The good news for consumers is that TeleNav will be available at-launch, as well as Garmin Mobile.

The key end-result is that Sprint is aiming for as transparent a process for consumers as possible, and will use November and December as testing periods before a national launch in January. While signing up now may make you an unofficial beta tester, Sprint has a clear process internally to give any interested customer a Hybrid Network phone.

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