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01/21/2009

Sprint Pitches $2 billion Emergency Network to Obama

WASHINGTON, DC - Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N), the third biggest U.S. wireless company, wants the government to fund a $2 billion emergency network to make first responders better able to communicate during disasters. The company, a major supplier of equipment including push-to-talk phones used by police and fire departments, pitched its 5-year plan to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team in a letter on January 6, which was made public on Friday. A Sprint official described it as a "ready to deploy emergency communications system that can be programmed to be interoperable with existing public safety networks." Obama's transition team has sought ideas from industry to solve communications problems that surfaced during disasters like the September 11 attacks on the United States and Hurricane Katrina.

Sprint officials, who are also lobbying lawmakers, hope to include the proposal in the billions flagged for technology in the economic stimulus plan working its way through Congress. Sprint's plan calls for 100 satellite-based light trucks that would respond to emergencies, and 100,000 or more mobile handsets and equipment at up to 40 pre-selected sites. The sites would allow for equipment to be shipped and arrive anywhere in the United States within four hours. Sprint has been struggling with market losses to AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, a venture between Verizon and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).

Motorola Inc (MOT.N) developed and supplies handsets for Sprint's iDen network, which is often used by emergency workers. A second Sprint proposal submitted to the transition team is for the Federal Communications Commission to look at re-regulating prices on telephone lines that route phone and Internet service. Those lines are now controlled mainly by AT&T and Verizon, the remnants of the old Bell phone company monopoly that existed until 1984.

Sprint says it spends one-third of the operating costs for its 60,000 cell sites to use the special access lines.


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