The smartphone is one of the most valuable tools in a contractor’s toolbelt. The device allows companies to keep in touch with the office through voice and data. Today push-to-talk services are advancing—providing faster data speeds, broader coverage, and more applications.

Sprint has announced it will be launching Sprint Direct Connect on Sunday. This brings about an entirely new era for push-to-talk for construction companies. Sprint Direct Connect will have new broadband data capabilities, similar push-to-talk features, broader coverage, and more rugged devices.

Of today’s carriers, many in the industry consider Sprint, www.sprint.com, Overland Park, Kan., to be a leader when it comes to push-to-talk capabilities in construction. Nextel, which was acquired by Sprint in 2005, was the first to coin this phrase in the construction industry. This despite the fact that in recent years, Verizon Wireless, www.verizonwireless.com, Basking Ridge, N.J., and AT&T, www.att.com, Dallas, Texas, have been coming on strong in the construction industry with push-to-talk services and applications for time-card management, work-order dispatch, and asset tracking, among others.

The Sprint Direct Connect services will include: Direct Connect (one-on-one push-to-talk calling), Group Connect (up to 20 callers), and TeamDC (up to 200 callers). Other services include an audio alert with optional text when someone is trying to reach you, the ability to request the availability status of another push-to-talk member, and NextMail, which allows users to send a recorded message to any email worldwide by using the Direct Connect button.

In early 2012, Sprint will expand its push-to-talk coverage area to match the Sprint CDMA voice coverage area. According to Sprint, this will be almost three times larger than coverage by Nextel iDEN today. Sprint plans to support the iDEN network into 2013. Next year, Sprint will also begin rolling out international push-to-talk calling in select countries.

Of particular interest for the construction industry, Sprint will also begin offering three new Sprint Direct Connect devices in the fourth quarter of this year. Kyocera, www.kyocera.com, Kyoto, Japan, DuraMax—which meets military standards and has a rugged exterior and non-slip Dura-Grip surface with camera and camcorder—will be available on Sunday.

Kyocera DuraCore, which will launch by the end of the year, is also a rugged device designed to meet military standards and withstand tough environments. In the fourth quarter, Sprint is also expected to launch a Sprint Direct Connect Android device by Motorola, www.motorola.com, Schaumburg, Ill. Sprint plans to assist customers with the migration to new Sprint Direct Connect devices.

Before the concept of the app flooded the construction industry, construction companies heavily relied on push-to-talk capabilities to keep in touch with the disparate teams. These push-to-talk services are still used in the construction industry as a way to communicate. It will be interesting to watch as Sprint rolls out its new Direct Connect services, devices, and coverage area, as this will all certainly have an impact on how the construction industry uses push-to-talk capabilities going forward.