Altech Autopage Cellular today launches Mobile Chat, a universal instant messaging service for mobile phones that can be used by all pre-paid and contract subscribers. 

Stephen Blewett, MD of Altech Autopage Cellular, describes Mobile Chat as a first in the telecommunications market as it enables anyone with a cellular phone to use instant messaging to communicate with their Instant Messaging contacts regardless of what Instant Messaging software their contacts have chosen.
“The technology behind Mobile Chat overcomes the limitations of existing instant messaging services for mobile phones which are based on different and competing software platforms," he says.
"With existing instant messaging products and services within the marketplace you need to download the same software to your handset as those that you want to communicate with have stored on their cellphones.
“With Mobile Chat by Altech Autopage Cellular the subscriber can communicate with anyone who has an instant messaging account anywhere in the world, either on their mobile handset or computer. Instant messaging is now truly mobilised.”
Instant messaging is realtime text communication between two or more individuals sent over a network such as the internet or using cellular technology.
It was originally taken up by internet subscribers who communicated through computer software programmes.  In recent years competing technologies that extended Instant Messaging to mobile communication have become popular. Worldwide there are more than 250-million people using Instant Messaging.
Instant Messaging is different from SMS messaging because once users are online they communicate back and forth without having to send a new message each time they respond. Mobile Chat uses a GPRS connection so subscribers only pay for the information they send and receive (around 2c per message).
Blewett believes that Instant Messaging creates a broader platform for this product within the South African market: “You can use the same Instant Messaging account and profile irrespective of whether you’re in front of your computer or out and about with your cellphone,” he says. Mobile Chat supports a number of Instant Messaging platforms – MSN; Google Talk; Yahoo!; AOL and ICQ.
“Altech Autopage Cellular believes that Mobile Chat will extend instant messaging well beyond the notion that it is a product which is only directed at the teenage market," says Blewitt. "Anyone who is reasonably comfortable with cellphones, computers and the internet should be able to take advantage of Mobile Chat.
Mobile Chat provides a level of safety for children by means of a feature called “the invitation”. This means that in order to load a new “buddy” users have to invite the person they wish to register by entering their e-mail address and the “buddy” then accepts the invitation. This security feature ensures that you only interact or “chat” with people you trust.
The monthly subscription fee for Mobile Chat is R20.00 and it is available to all cellular pre-paid and contract subscribers in South Africa on the MTN, Vodacom and CellC networks.