Sprint gives away GPS service with low-cost data plans

Navigation service also available at a per-use rate for other data-plan customers

Some Sprint Nextel data-service customers will be able to use a new location service without additional charge starting in April.

Subscribers to the $25-per-month Sprint Power Vision Ultimate Pack and Sprint Vision Business Pack plans will get the service, based on GPS, free of charge. In addition, Sprint is introducing the Power Vision Navigation Pack for $20 per month, which includes the navigation service and unlimited access to data and Internet, as well as Sprint's e-mail, radio, and TV services.

Other Sprint data users will be able to pay $2.99 for a 24-hour period of usage of the navigation service.

The new service includes voice-guided driving directions and maps the route on the phone's screen. Users can also get traffic alerts and search a database of 10 million points of interest for locales such as restaurants and shops. A pedestrian mode makes it easier to use the service on foot rather than in a car.

Customers need certain phones to use the service but can choose from a variety of devices made by Motorola, Samsung, and Sanyo. Compatible phones fall under Sprint's Power Vision and Vision categories, although not all phones in those groupings will work.

Mobile operators are increasingly offering location-based services as more handsets come with GPS. Nokia has taken a particular interest in navigation capabilities, recently announcing that it will offer mapping and routing services, some of them free to users, in all of its converged phones. Just one Nokia phone is listed among Sprint's Vision and Power Vision phones.