Interest in walkie-talkie services is continuing to rise as near-daily rumors circulate predicting when carriers will launch a competing offer to Nextel Communications Inc.’s much-envied Direct Connect service, and infrastructure providers continue to tout the capabilities of their solutions.
UBS Warburg hosted a conference call with press-to-talk solutions provider Sonim Technologies designed to provide an update on the status of the industry, coming on the heels of continued speculation that Verizon Wireless was set to launch a press-to-talk offering as early as next month.
During the UBS call, Sonim Chief Executive Officer John Burns said he expects the country’s top carriers to launch a press-to-talk offering by the end of this year, with similar services launched internationally early next year.
“We expect the top four or five operators in the U.S. will launch in late third-quarter or early fourth-quarter time frame,” Burns said.
Nextel is the only nationwide operator to have launched a press-to-talk offering, but many analysts expect CDMA-based operators to launch a service by the end of this year and GSM-based operators to launch early next year.
Despite the predictions that it was on the verge of launching a service, Verizon Wireless continued to stick with its previous announcement that it would launch a press-to-talk offering by the end of this year, a time frame that has been matched by fellow CDMA operators Sprint PCS and Alltel Corp.
Beyond the actual launch date, Sonim’s Burns also touched on latency issues that have garnered increased importance for press-to-talk services as there is concern services using packet-based networks will have a hard time matching the sub-one-second session setup time Nextel can offer with its iDEN-based service.
Burns explained that Sonim looked at two parts of latency including the session setup, which is used to instigate a press-to-talk session, and what it termed “subsequent latency,” which it said involved latency once a session has been initiated.
Burns said he expected GPRS latency to be a couple of seconds in the session setup and going down for the subsequent latency. In the case of CDMA, Burns said he expects slightly longer session setup latency of between six and eight seconds due to “wake-up” and “handshake” procedures required of the technology to instigate a session, with subsequent latency expected to be in the one-to-two-second range.
“Latency exists in the network itself as part of the transport,” Burns said. “Vendors expect to deliver a sub-one second latency in GSM and hopefully similar latency on CDMA networks.”
Rival press-to-talk developer Comverse Inc. had a different view on technology-based latency, telling RCR Wireless News that CDMA technology would prove easier to set up and that they expect CDMA-based press-to-talk deployment would be first to market.
“CDMA is easier and more ready for deployment,” said Tal Kuttner, corporate marketing at Comverse Inc. “GPRS services will come along a little later than CDMA.”
Kuttner added that Comverse’s press-to-talk solution was currently capable of sub-two second latency session setup and less than one-second in-call latency.
“Latency must be as low as possible,” explained Dan Shoshani, director of solution marketing at Comverse. “If it does not match Nextel, it could effect reception in the market. If you want to sell a PTT offering, you can’t have a four-second setup.”
Nextel added its own fuel to the fire late last week when it announced it received a trademark patent for Push To Talk from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which the carrier said it initiated early last year. The carrier said it was beginning to contact companies about the trademark, which has been publicly used by most of its competitors when commenting on plans to launch a similar service.