Telstra announced yesterday its newest novelty in mobile phone communication, Talking Text messages to fixed line phones.
The first of its kind in Australia, the service is now available to all post-paid and pre-paid Telstra mobile phone users, with most Telstra fixed phones already possessing the ability to receive the Talking Text service.
Home and business customers are automatically signed up to receive Talking Text messages unless they call up to cancel the service, although Telstra has stated that recipients will not be charged for listening to a message.
Leica Ison, general manager of messaging for Telstra, predicts the new service will be received well in Australia, particularly among the youth segment of the market.
"We think it will be extremely popular. It's a natural extension of the mobile SMS service," said Ison.
Telstra says the text-to-speech technology can currently interpret over 3600 words, including common names and even swear words.
"It's not up to us to edit people's messages to each other," said Ison, adding "the sender's number will be read out before the message, giving the receiver the option to hear it."
Ison says Telstra is taking a "phased" approach to implementing the new service, making enhancements according to customer feedback and eventually adding a fixed-line SMS provision to the text message package.
Telstra's consumer segment head, Jenny Young, says Talking Text messages are an "ideal way for mobile and fixed phone users to keep in touch", describing the service as easy and fun.
"The computer-generated, female voice reading out the message sounds natural and clear, thanks to cutting-edge technology. The service can even recognise many of the symbols and abbreviations used to represent words in text messages," said Young.
Telstra says customers sending a Talking Text message will be charged at the standard mobile SMS rate.
In practice, the recipient's handset will ring as usual when receiving a Talking Text, and upon answering an automated voice will inform the person that they have received a message, giving them the option to hear, delete or save it.
According to Telstra, if the receiving phone is not answered when a Talking Text message has been sent the message can be saved to a "compatible" MessageBank or Telstra Home Message service and to most other answering services.
Telstra says messages will not be delivered between midnight and 8.00am, unless customers tailor their service to allow it.