Just what is Sprint up to? With great fanfare, the carrier announced on May 27 that "Sprint once again makes history with technology milestone." But this is an old, and confusing, story, and the announcement did nothing to make it a new story or to reduce the confusion. So why did Sprint make the announcement and why did the press fawn all over it?Just what is\u00a0Sprint\u00a0up to? With great fanfare, the carrier\u00a0announced on May 27\u00a0that "Sprint once again makes history with technology milestone." But this is an old, and confusing, story, and the announcement did nothing to make it a new story or to reduce the confusion. So why did Sprint make the announcement and why did the press fawn all over it?The\u00a0new Sprint press release\u00a0 is almost the same as\u00a0one from November 2001. Both talk about Sprint deciding to migrate to a "packet network." But all might not be as it seems.It looks like the "packet network" Sprint is talking about is not IP; instead it is\u00a0ATM, the telephone company dream network technology. The 2001 release is clearer about this than the new one. The older release says that the aim is "an entire network evolution including Class 4 and Class 5 components to packet utilizing subscriber line over ATM technology." The 2003 release says Sprint will convert by "initially leveraging the high reliability of ATM."It looks to me that the releases, if not designed to be misleading, are at the very least very carefully worded. Most non-telco people in the data networking business would not immediately think of ATM when some company says that it is converting to a packet network. In ATM, the mini chunks of data are referred to as "cells," not "packets." One can make the argument that it is not technically incorrect to refer to cells as packets. I agree, but I've rarely seen a case in the last few years when an ATM network has been referred to as a packet network unless the speaker is trying to make the reader incorrectly think of IP-based networks.The new release is carefully worded: It says that the conversion "solidly positions Sprint for IP applications." Someone skimming this announcement might assume that Sprint was saying that it would be able to run IP, but that is not quite what it says.A few years ago I said\u00a0I would not do any more ATM-bashing columns. So by assertion, this not an ATM-bashing column. But ATM is not IP. ATM is a circuit-switch technology where the carrier determines what circuits are permitted to be set up. IP is a datagram protocol where the carrier forwards the packets toward the right destinations.Why did Sprint issue the new release? Maybe because it is late in the original plan, or maybe because\u00a0MCI\u00a0has begun to say that it is going to\u00a0converge its services over a real packet network\u00a0(such as IP) and Sprint wanted to muddy the waters. Why did the press fawn so unquestioningly over the announcement? I do not know; maybe you better ask them.Disclaimer: At Harvard, an unquestioning student is a failure, but the above questions are my own.