FEMA moves from Nextel to Sprint’s new push-to-talk service

Sprint Nextel Corp. said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has signed up for the Overland Park-based wireless carrier’s new push-to-talk service called Direct Connect.

FEMA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, will receive 2,000 Direct Connect devices under the service agreement for use in its mass evacuation program. It has been using the push-to-talk service on Sprint’s Nextel network.

The program allows FEMA to provide critical information to first responders during a national emergency. Sprint has worked with the program since 2008.

Sprint has said it will shut off its Nextel network as early as next June. It has offered incentives to lure Nextel customers over to its Sprint network that offers Direct Connect push-to-talk.

Other carriers are competing for the several million Nextel customers who are forced to migrate. About 60 percent of the Nextel customers who switched in the second quarter moved to the Sprint network, a larger customer retention rate than Sprint had reported previously.

Push-to-talk has been popular among businesses with crews in the field. It provides instant connections for a walkie-talkie conversation.

Sprint’s announcement said FEMA would use a rugged, military-specification Kyocera device that has the Actsoft Comet Tracker application. It said the new service would be available during this year’s hurricane season.