Vendors turn GSM phones into walkie-talkies

Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens, three of the world's main GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network vendors, are working together to turn GSM phones into walkie-talkies, they said Monday.

The three, traditionally rivals in the GSM network space, are jointly defining technology specifications to enable "push to talk" on GSM networks with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data extensions. Initial trials of the service are set to begin the second half of this year, the companies said in a joint statement.

U.S. mobile phone operators AT&T Wireless Services Inc. and Cingular Wireless LLC are interested in offering the service, they said in the statement. That means competition is on the way for Reston, Virginia, Nextel Communications Inc., which already sells a similar service and is rolling that out to offer U.S.-wide coverage.

Push to talk will allow GSM users to push a button on their phone and talk to one or more other users in a predefined group. There is no need to enter a phone number and the sender's voice immediately sounds on the other end, much like a walkie-talkie. Operators will likely sell the service as an add-on to the standard mobile call plans.

Voice will travel as data over the GPRS network. Users will receive an IP (Internet Protocol) address for their phone and have to program the IP addresses of the phones they want to connect with into their handsets, Mats Thorén, a spokesman for Ericsson in Stockholm said.

Like a walkie-talkie and the first Internet phone applications, push to talk will be half-duplex, which means a user has to listen first and then talk.

"In that aspect, it is more limited than an ordinary mobile phone call," Thorén said.

Businesses could use the service for fleet management purposes, while consumers can stay in touch with family while on the slopes or in a theme park, the push to talk backers said.

Though vendors see uses for businesses and consumers, at least one analyst thinks push to talk might be a hard sell on consumers.

"From the corporate side, I think it is a good tool in the operator's armory, but I am not so sure about the proposition for consumers. At the moment, the consumer can already send an assortment of different message types," said Jason Chapman, a senior analyst with Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner Inc. in Egham, England.

Mobile phone operators will be able to compete with TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) networks used by businesses. TETRA networks are based on TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technology and are commonly used by police, ambulance and fire services, security services, utilities and transportation, among others.

"Push to talk is comparable to some of the fleet management services that we have seen launched on TETRA networks," Chapman said. "This allows mobile operators to now go to fleet managers, for example, and not only offer traditional voice services."

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and Siemens are planning handsets that support the walkie-talkie service. Nokia will likely also offer handsets, but could not immediately be reached for confirmation. The first commercial products and services should be out by the end of next year, probably in the U.S., Thorén said.

Mobile telephony operators will need to upgrade their networks to offer push to talk, but this is an easy and minor upgrade, according to the statement.

Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens invite mobile network operators and manufacturers to help create a single standard for push to talk on today's and tomorrow's GSM networks. The specifications that come from the joint work will be submitted to the relevant industry bodies for standardization, the companies said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joris Evers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?