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Issue #2003 - 27 (October 2003)
(Updated Oct. 22, 2003)


"Push To Talk" feature Becoming Mainstream on 3G (or 2.5G) Wireless Networks

A number of initiatives by wireless service providers is pointing to a widespread trend towards "push to talk" feature on wireless data devices and networks. The following announcements are noteworthy:

1.Verizon is already offering its P2T capability on its wireless data network based on 1xRTT CDMA technology.

2 Sprint PCS in USA has also announced a similar service on its 1xRTT network. Service will be available by the end of 2003.

3. Bell Mobility in Canada has indicated its intention to offer a similar push to talk service on its 1xRTT network.

4. Telus Mobility (another Canadian carrier), which had almost a monopoly in the Canadian market of "Push to Talk" service (through its Mike offering, similar to Nextel's service in USA and based on Motorola's iDEN technology) has indicated to the investment community that it will offer a consumer version of P2T service along with its Mike service that is targeted at the professional and business market. The new service will be based on its 2.5G CDMA 1xRTT network .

For more on this - NBC reporter's experience of Verizon versus Nextel service, go here.

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: P2T (some use PPT for push to talk or walkie-talkie feature for the uninitiated) is definitely in the cards for all the networks. Motivation for this very simple and straightforward. Customers - consumers, professionals and business users who work in groups or teams, all want it. They are paying Nextel to get it. From carrier's point of view, the ARPU (average revenue per user) is much higher - $70 for Nextel customers compared to $45 for non P2T users of Verizon and Sprint). 

Where is the hitch in doing it faster and ubiquitously? First Motorola and Nextel had a special contractual deal in offering this "fast direct connect" to Nextel customers only. That arrangement is now terminated, much to Nextel's dismay and anger. Can you rely on your partner for ever? The second stickler is some patents that just expired. Third is that current generation of 2.5G digital networks have not been retrofitted with this feature. It just takes time to retrofit those hardware, firmware and software changes to network infrastructure to get direct connect on. That's why it will take Sprint some time to turn it on. 

The most important consideration, our simple systems engineering thinking tells us, is thatP2T experience on true and tried Nextel (and Telus Mobility in Canada) and new service offering on Verizon and shortly Sprint will be different. Motorola's iDEN network was designed right from start as a combined voice and data network and had "fast direct connect - in a second or so, as a design feature. This is not true with Verizon and Sprint's 1xRTT CDMA networks. Therefore, it takes a while (4-5 second) on these new networks to connect with your buddies who are in your P2T group. However, you have some nice features like - visual list names of users who are available for conversation. Of course, on the positive side, Verizon and Sprint network coverage is more widespread than that of Nextel. Bottom line - if Nextel has coverage where you work most often, it offers superior experience. If not, Verizon service is acceptable. Some service, even with slightly delayed direct connect is better than no connect. There is always give and take in business decisions.

Finally, we think that Telus Mobility's strategy in Canada is very interesting and quite smart. Unlike Nextel (who has a 21% stake in the Canadian company), Telus has both an iDEN and 1xRTT network. Please note that Telus will offer what it calls consumer P2T service through 1xRTT network and business P2T service through iDEN. Our partially-confirmed intelligence indicates that Telus is investing more in 1xRTT than in iDEN network. That may tell you a bit about where the future is. True 3G networks with fast direct connect may be the answer.

In this discussion, where is GSM/GPRS carriers? You bet, they are working hard to catch up.

Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.

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