MTN has become South Africa's first cellular operator to offer a commercial push-to-talk (PTT) service, with rates as low as 16 cents per push.
PTT lets a group of up to 20 people communicate with each other in a singel session. It's not a conference call and it's not a walkie-talkie, but almost something inbetween.
The new offering works off the cellular network and uses Internet Protocol (IP), so it's a data service and holds the potential for a wealth of new applications in the future.
The company desribes PTT as an innovative technology for business users that can best be described as an instant group communication tool, using cellular communication.
IT allows users to coordinate their workforce from anywhere in South Africa at the touch of a button. Companies can get instant, seamless, secure and quick communication with individuals or groups within their company on a PTT capable phone.
"Buckley McGrath, MTN executive: corporate business unit, comments: "The PTT technology has been through a successful pilot phase in South Africa and has enormous potential, as proven internationally. It enables MTN cell phone users to communicate quickly and seamlessly with one or a group of subscribers at the same time, using a designated PTT button on their handsets.
"It is available wherever MTN has GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network coverage, which is almost 1-million square kilometers of South Africa’s physical land area.”
The conversation is within a closed user group of up to 20 users pre-determined by an administrator, and is totally secure.
Other features of PTT include: detection of user presence, allowing users to see which members of a group are available before pressing the PTT button; auto-answer where the caller is immediately connected to the recipient; invitation messages similar to voicemail alerts for users already involved in one PTT conversation to join another; and a feature called floor control which allows only one user to speak at any given time – particularly useful when a large group of people is on the same conversation. The selected speaker can talk for a maximum of 20 seconds at each push, before releasing the button to wait for a response.
Customers can now have one integrated device for all their business requirements: traditional voice, PTT, e-mail and SMS.
Says McGrath: “For the business user, PTT technology is superior to other forms of instant communication. There are no physical area limitations or infrastructure set-up costs because the only equipment required is a PTT-enabled cellular handset, such as those available from Nokia and MTN network coverage. There are also no operational costs related to infrastructure, because PTT is hosted and managed within the MTN network.
“This allows rapid deployment of the technology because it can be added onto existing corporate contracts, and enhances productivity through a single user communicating with many at the touch of a button."