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BT Gives PSP Its Voice

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe signed a four-year partnership contract today to bring voice, video, and messaging capabilities to the WiFi-enabled PlayStation Portable (PSP) device. For the first time, wireless network gamers will be able to communicate via their gaming device. (See BT, Sony Team Up.)

The communication functions -- including video chat, voice calling, and messaging -- will come preloaded onto new PSPs and will also be available for downloading onto existing PSPs. Users of the gaming device will also be able to call or send messages to PCs, fixed lines, and mobile phones.

BT isn’t talking about the commercial offering right now, such as how the new PSPs will be priced, how much the software downloads will cost, whether users will have to subscribe to BT Openzone WiFi services, or how the communication services will be priced. But the British operator says that all will be revealed at the Leipzig Games Convention in August.

Warren Buckley, director of portfolio convergence at BT Retail, says that people already watch videos and access the Internet on PSPs, and Sony recently launched a camera attachment. So, "it seems natural for us to add communications services," he says.

BT and Sony will first launch the new PSPs and communication services in the U.K. with BT Openzone , but BT says it is talking to other service providers in Europe about partnerships so that the service can be offered where BT does not have coverage. In the deal with Sony, the service can be offered 102 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

BT's Buckley explains that the British operator will be transferring to the PSP the voice over IP (VOIP) technology that it has developed for its all-IP 21st Century Network (21CN). As of the end of March, BT had 1.4 million VOIP customers and offers a softphone service for PCs.

"We'll reuse all of that," says Buckley.

There are more than 8 million PSPs shipped in Europe and about 1.4 million in the U.K. BT does not disclose how many WiFi customers it has.

But BT won't be the first WiFi service provider to work with the PSP gaming device in the U.K. The Cloud launched a service for the PSP in which it worked with Future Publishing to develop gaming-specific content to be accessed via the PSP. Subscription to The Cloud's PSP service, which includes the WiFi access, costs £4.99 per month.

"You want to give these [users] content in the context of the device," says Adrian Drury, head of commercial strategy at The Cloud. "Any user with a PSP is bound to have a mobile phone with them. [BT's project] is good because more applications are getting to these devices, but where is the yield in that?"

Without the details on BT's commercial service offering, adding communications capabilities to the PSP sounds like a good convergence story, on the face of it. If it works for BT, it could boost the use of their WiFi networks and attract more broadband subscribers with WiFi-enabled BT Home Hubs. But the core age range of PSP owners is 18 to 27 years old. How much will they be willing to pay for extra communications services when they probably already have a mobile phone?

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

sanjose_guru 12/5/2012 | 3:07:56 PM
re: BT Gives PSP Its Voice I wish gadgets like this doesn't time me up with one ISP. If it would support Devicescape or Whisher kind of solution that would be a big freedom for me
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