Sprint customers will soon get GPS-enabled navigation service for free as part of certain data packages.
The service will be available to customers with Power Vision data plans starting at $20 a month, and it comes in a package that also includes Internet browsing, digital radio and streaming video.
Customers using other Sprint data plans will be able to add the navigation service for $2.99 per day. AT&T and Verizon Wireless also sell navigation services, but they charge an additional $9.99 a month for the service.
Navigation services are enabled by global positioning satellite, or GPS, technology. Phones are embedded with GPS chips, which receive signals from low orbiting satellites. The satellites then track the location of these devices. When cross-referenced with mapping information and other local data, operators can provide services, such as turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates, buddy tracking or finding the nearest coffee shop.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that the technology be embedded in some kinds of phones to track their location in case of an emergency. Mobile operators have taken advantage of the new capability by introducing services. Companies such as Boost, Loopt, Helio and Disney Mobile use GPS technology to offer tracking "buddy" and kid-tracking services.
Even handset makers Nokia and Motorola have introduced GPS navigation services along with new devices that have GPS chips embedded in them. Personal-navigation software companies like TomTom are also offering versions of their software for high-end smart phones.
By bundling its navigation service into its data package at no additional charge, Sprint hopes to attract more mainstream customers.
"Sprint Navigation will provide flexible options for Sprint data customers to easily access the most complete GPS navigation service right on their phone, when and where they want to," George Ranallo, director of wireless data applications for Sprint, said in a statement. "Whether subscribing to a data pack that offers unlimited access or using the service on a pay-per-day basis, customers will have the power to use Sprint Navigation in the way that best fits their needs."
Sprint's navigation service will be available in April on most Power Vision phones including the popular Motorola Razr, Motorola Krzr and LG Fusic, as well as many Sprint Vision phones. Navigation features will vary by phone, the company said.