Instant Voice



Ever thought of a technology or service that can let mobile workers remain in
touch with their colleagues in the field or back at the office, at the push of a
button? Ever wondered that even as your sales people or other field personnel
travel across cities they are able to send or receive calls without spending a
penny on roaming charges? Push-to-Talk (PTT) service, launched by Tata Indicom
and Hutch, allows exactly that-even unlimited voice calls including long
distance calls-for an additional monthly payment of just Rs 99.

Not
a new technology, PTT, is making news across the world. Even though wireless
operators across the world have been marketing it as an instant voice messaging
solution for every mobile phone user, PTT initially gained prominence as an
enterprise/corporate communication tool for mobile workers. US wireless operator
Nextel, considered a PTT pioneer, has for long offered the service to business
users.

What exactly is PTT? Push-to-talk is a direct real-time
always-on-voice-communications service similar to a walkie-talkie. It works on a
simple principle: just push to talk. In other words, a person with a PTT handset
just needs to push a button to establish a connection and talk with another user
or a group of users with no need to dial a number to initiate a call-almost
similar to the way an instant chat messenger work. The half-duplex (one-way at a
time) call connection is almost instant. The PTT application that the cellular
operators are offering is also called Push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC). It
introduces a direct one-to-one and one-to-many voice communication service in
the cellular network.

How
do you subscribe to the PTT service? First of all, you will need to buy a mobile
handset that has a built-in PTT application. Nokia 3650, 3660, 6600, 7650,
N-Gage and Sony Ericsson P800 and P900 and the Kyocera KX440 (offered by Tata
Indicom) have PTT applications built in them. In India, both Tata Indicom and
Hutch offer PTT service for a monthly subscription of Rs 99.

PTT is not just about voice calls. The PTT service that Hutch is offering
allows users to send video and text messages as well, all for the same Rs 99.
For instance, a PTT user need not reply to a voice message with another voice
message. A reply can be sent as a SMS, or even as a picture format. Hutch PTT
users can also communicate with their friends on Yahoo messenger even when they
do not have PTT compatible handsets. A user can also attach pictures or videos
to voice and text messages and can send to multiple groups.

Push-to-Talk
Highs Lows
National
Coverage
Quality/Latency
Price
of service/Bundling
Handset
price/battery power
Easy-to-use
phones
Inter-network
operability
Ability
to integrate services into the core business processes of customers
Cultural
adoption issues

However, PTT service comes with a few limitations. A PTT call can only be
made to another phone with the same feature. Also, a Tata Indicom PTT subscriber
cannot make a call to a Hutch PTT user or vice versa. Besides, there are some
other issues related to latency and quality of voice.

PTT was one of the most talked about mobile wireless applications in 2004. In
the US, PTT has long been successful as an enterprise application. Its success
can be gauged from the fact that the largest PTT operator (as well as the only
one till some time back), Nextel, has around 16 million customers and is known
for its popularity among enterprises and strong customer loyalty.

Ravi Shekhar Pandey in
New Delhi

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