Is there much value in competitive PTT offerings?

Is there much value in push-to-talk offerings from operators other than Sprint Nextel?

Verizon Wireless, according to The Wall Street Journal, is planning to launch a new, faster version of its PTT service over EV-DO this summer after offering PTT for nearly five years. The news follows MetroPCS' launch of a PTT service that enables users to connect to other subscribers on other networks if they use a specific MetroPCS PTT phone. And others such AT&T and Alltel have been offering PTT services for some time now.

Ever since Nextel, prior to its merger with Sprint, launched PTT and recorded the industry's best churn and ARPU rates, competitors have been trying to replicate its success. In 2003, the first competitive offerings came on the scene, and they had little impact on Nextel's subscriber base or customer growth as they were technically inferior and could not penetrate the vast number of user groups.

Then in 2006, Sprint Nextel began losing iDEN customers, and competitors still could not achieve much market success with PTT offerings.

Fast forward to 2008, and Sprint Nextel is working on wooing back the many disgruntled iDEN users and launching QChat over EV-DO Rev. A. But the country's largest PTT operator may find a diminished market. PTT simply isn't on the top list of requirements for the enterprise market anymore, says Phil Redman, vice president of research with Gartner Research. There are only certain groups where PTT is important, he says.

That also means a diminished market for competitors too. Of course, carriers like MetroPCS are targeting the consumer and family groups, but the entire dynamic of the industry has changed. PTT was originally used to help keep voice prices down. With unlimited mobile plans on the market and features such as free calling to fellow customers of a particular operator, does PTT really offer much of a significant differentiator?

But what's a really interesting play is the idea of pushing voice and data services. For instance, one QChat initiative Qualcomm has undertaken is Yagatta, which is an advanced version of push to talk that includes simultaneous voice and data sessions. Yagatta would allow PTT to be incorporated with other services such as social networking, user-generated content, chat rooms, video text messaging and more.

Simple PTT is passé now. And Sprint Nextel understands this as it's working to add push-to-x features such as using one button to send email and pictures. With all the talk about how difficult it is for customers to navigate through menus to consume the mobile content they desire, this one-button instantaneous feature should become a powerful tool to generating data revenues. -Lynnette


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