Sprint recently installed packet-voice equipment in a local switching office, the start of a highly touted long-term plan to convert its entire network from circuit switching to packet switching.Sprint\u00a0recently installed packet-voice equipment in a local switching office, the start of a highly touted long-term plan to convert its entire network from circuit switching to packet switching.Singing the same old song? Bradner: Sprint's announcement is a lot of hooha. The rollover started in Gardner, Kan. - about a half-hour from Sprint headquarters in Overland Park. The company says the timeline for the project, which had been planned for eight years, has been extended to about 12 years.The project is being stretched out because of the telecom slump. Customer growth that had been 5% to 6% has dropped off, making the cost benefits of packet networking less compelling, the company says.The goal of the project remains the same: convert all of Sprint's networks to packets to foster network efficiency and to support new converged voice and data services that such networks make possible. The plan calls for converting about 1,500 local switching offices to packet switching.The switch to\u00a0ATM\u00a0in Gardner and three nearby towns supported by the same switching office has no immediate effect on the local phone service. The link between customer sites and the switching office remains analog. Once the traffic hits the new switches, it is converted to ATM. For now Sprint is not offering new services.The new network gear could support new services such as asymmetric DSL, IP telephony and IP Centrex, but those services will not be offered until demand is high enough to make offering them profitable, Sprint says.When the $1 billion contract to\u00a0Nortel\u00a0for the project was announced in November 2001, the companies said it represented the first phase of an eight-year program to convert the 18-state Sprint local network to packets. Sprint got the equipment last year for testing, which was completed in time to install it last month.The pace of converting support of 8 million lines has been scaled back, with 1 million expected to be switched within two years, 4 million in six years and all 8 million in 12 years, says Mark Chall, vice president of network, packet switching.Sprint plans to convert six other switching offices this year: Boulder City, Nev.; Independence, Va.; Mill Hall and Newport, Pa.; Warren, Ohio; and Wauchula\/Zolfa Springs, Fla.