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UK in line for push-to-talk invasion

Orange may soon find itself with push-to-talk competition from RIM or other technology providers
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

More UK mobile operators may soon begin offering push-to-talk services, following RIM's decision to provide the service on its Pearl handset in the US.

Push-to-talk allows workers to instantly talk to their peers, either one-to-one or as a broadcast, with a walkie-talkie style conversation. Using push-to-talk is far quicker than initiating a phone call, and it comes with a presence feature, which means workers can see which of their colleagues are available before trying to communicate with them.

Push-to-talk is already provided in the UK by Orange on a small number of handsets, but to date few business customers have adopted it.

The availability of push-to-talk on RIM's popular BlackBerry Pearl device, which was announced earlier this month, could change that. Despite the fact RIM is only making the service available initially on the US-based Cingular network, it has signed a global deal for the rollout of the technology.

RIM's supplier, a privately-owned US company called Kodiak Networks, is keen to expand that footprint. Speaking to ZDNet UK, Tim Hall, vice president of strategic alliances for Kodiak, confirmed that RIM had global licensing rights for its push-to-talk product. When asked whether he thought RIM would roll out the service in the UK, he said, "I hope so."

As well as working with mobile operators, Kodiak also works with all the major handset vendors, apart from Nokia, so services may be offered in the UK through channels other than RIM. RIM itself works closely with Vodafone, O2 and T-Mobile in the UK.

"At the moment, we can't announce any wins in Europe, but there are ongoing demonstrations and trials with potential customers," said Hall.

RIM refused to be drawn on whether it would launch push-to-talk in the UK.

Perhaps the most high-profile organisation in this country to use push-to-talk is Leicestershire Police. It uses the Orange service as a back-up in case of failure in its main TETRA radio network.

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