Sprint plans QChat walkie-talkies for 2008 Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:08pm EDT By Sinead Carew NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is gearing up to sell as many as six new walkie-talkie style phones in early 2008 using Qualcomm Inc's (QCOM.O: Quote, Profile, Research) QChat technology, a Sprint handset executive said. The third-largest U.S. mobile service provider is planning to phase out Nextel's walkie-talkie service, which had dominated the construction and transportation industries for years. Sprint has been struggling to keep customers of Nextel's iDen walkie-talkie service, inherited from its 2005 purchase of Nextel Communications, so the success of QChat is crucial. The company is currently testing QChat technology and hopes to kick-off the service with phones from Motorola Inc (MOT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Samsung Electronics (005930.KS: Quote, Profile, Research), LG Electronics (066570.KS: Quote, Profile, Research) and Sanyo Electric (6764.T: Quote, Profile, Research), said Danny Bowman, Sprint's vice president for customer equipment. "My expectation is I will have four to six different phones" in the first and second quarter of next year, Bowman said at a product launch meeting this week. However, the transfer of subscribers from iDen to QChat, which will run on Sprint's CDMA wireless network, could take time as customers need to buy a new phone. And because the first QChat phones will be based on a brand new technology they may cost more than some iDen customers are willing to pay, Bowman said. But he said Sprint, which will continue to introduce new iDen phones during the transition period, is working with Qualcomm on pricing with an aim to offer QChat on all its new CDMA phones in 2009. Sprint has promised to operate its iDen network through the end of 2012. Stanford Group analyst Michael Nelson said the sooner Sprint is able move customers from iDen, which has been having network problems, to CDMA, the easier it should be for the company to stem iDen customer defections. "It is extremely important for the company to ease the integration of iDen and CDMA," he said. Sprint has said it lost about 337,000 valuable post-paid customers, who pay monthly bills, in the third quarter. Nelson said the majority of these losses likely came from iDen. "QChat will hopefully help the company to transfer customers to CDMA from iDen ... as quickly as possible to be able to retain additional customers, to stop the bleeding," Nelson said.