Push-to-talk: Is text messaging on the ropes?

PTT gets a blue rinse...
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

PTT gets a blue rinse...

Despite recent reports that SMS is in rude health - more than 20 billion texts were sent last year in the UK alone - there may be a shadow on the horizon in the form of push-to-talk.

Push-to-talk - the 'walkie-talkie' technology being touted as mobile's next big thing - is a function that allows users to send voice messages and, according to Ericsson, has proved very popular with young and, surprisingly, old alike.

In the US, PTT has largely been adopted for business use. Research by handset maker Ericsson into potential usage in Europe indicates that mobile owners will be taking up the service to chat to friends. And while youngsters are keen on the blend of IM-style presence functionality and SMS-like voice messaging, the older generation that the text revolution has passed by are keen to get on the bandwagon too.

Niclas Medman, senior marketing manager for Ericsson's PPT program, said that there had been interest from mothers who didn't use SMS in using the messaging functionality and said that PPT: "Fills a gap where voice calls are not normally made". It's a rich seam to be tapped - Orange says that 80 per cent of over 40s have never sent a text message.

However, while grandparents might take to the service like silver-haired ducks to water, Mark Boulding, senior associate analyst at Quocirca, said that the SMS-PTT relationship is likely to be harmonious.

"There's a time and a place for SMS... PTT isn't as flexible as SMS. SMS is a surprisingly secure medium; you can charge for content in interesting ways and you have micropayments and m-commerce. PTT doesn't offer that. It won't replace SMS; it will augment it," he said.

The instant nature of PTT will no doubt appeal to teenagers but the issue of pricing will put it on the back foot. While an SMS typically costs 10p, pricing structures in the US - where PTT is more common - are around the $20-a-month level. Ericsson's research shows that European consumers were only willing to pay a €5 to €10 monthly flat fee.

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