AT&T begins phase 2 of PTT rollout: Wi-Fi support added and APIs released

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BARCELONA, Spain--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) recently added Wi-Fi support to its "Enhanced Push-to-Talk (PTT)" service, allowing users to conduct PTT conversations on hotspots, and the carrier also released APIs for the service that will allow customers to add PTT functions to their applications. The efforts are part of the second phase of AT&T's PTT rollout, said M. Mobeen Khan, executive director of Advanced Mobility Solutions for AT&T Business Solutions.

In comments here on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show, Khan said the first phase of AT&T's PTT strategy involved launching the service in an attempt to acquire Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) departing iDEN subscribers. AT&T in November announced the nationwide launch of its Enhanced PTT service, which costs $5 per month when added to existing AT&T voice and data plans or $30 per month for a PTT-only rate plan (no voice or non-PTT data included). The IP-based service runs over AT&T's HSPA and LTE networks and is powered by Kodiak Networks.

Now, Khan said, AT&T is working to expand the functionality of its PTT service. He said Wi-Fi support will allow workers near a hotspot to continue to conduct PTT calls when they are outside of AT&T's cellular coverage area. He also said the carrier's PTT APIs would allow its customers to add PTT calling functions into their existing services--for example, a fleet management company could use the APIs to connect its dispatchers to its drivers via a push-to-talk call.

AT&T has not released the number of its PTT subscribers. Sprint said in September that it counted 1 million subscribers to its CDMA PTT service. Sprint introduced a Qualcomm-powered PTT service on its CDMA network in order to capture departing iDEN subscribers and plans to turn off its iDEN network later this year.

In the future, Khan said AT&T plans to target the public safety sector with its PTT offering. He said the carrier is looking at ways to improve the radio service that police and firefighters have been using since the 1980s. For example, Khan said, AT&T's IP-based service could allow police officers to search for license plate information from their phone. The goal, he said, is to bring public safety users "into the smartphone age."

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