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Alcatel Pushes Alone

Gallic infrastructure giant Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) appears to be following rival Nokia Corp.'s (NYSE: NOK) lead, with its decision today to launch a pre-standard push-to-talk (PTT) service for carriers (see Alcatel Touts PTT App).

Last August, LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and Nokia announced the completion of a “jointly developed” PTT-over-cellular (POC) specification, designed to enable interoperability among carriers and vendors. PTT-type technology allows people to use their phones as walkie-talkies, merely pushing a button to talk to another user or group of users.

The companies submitted this specification to the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) standards body in an effort to promote it as the standard for POC (see Giants Complete PTT Spec).

Nokia later reneged on this agreement, announcing plans to push its own pre-standard protocol, leaving the remaining trio to test their own version (see Nokia Touts PTT Initiative and Vendors Test PTT).

Alcatel’s announcement today makes no mention of any participation in vendor testing partnerships, leading analysts to conclude that the French supplier is also taking a solo approach.

"Nowhere does Alcatel say they are a part of the Ericsson/Motorola/Siemens interoperability testing -- a sure sign that they aren't in line with those folks," opines Current Analysis’s Peter Jarich.

“It is trying to get a product out there without waiting for ratification -- the sort of thing Nokia has done,” concurs Ovum Ltd.’s research director, Jeremy Green. “It isn’t a ridiculous thing to do, though, as everyone will converge at some point down the line.”

Alcatel is unwilling to divulge the specifics of its PTT strategy. A company statement is vague in its assertion that the vendor is “following the early specifications of the OMA.”

Guillaume Dorbes, marketing director for its mobile applications division, declines to elaborate. “We are working with the OMA forum. That is our position at the moment,” he tells Unstrung. Like Nokia, Dorbes stresses that Alcatel will be fully compliant with the OMA standard once it is finalized later this year (see Nokia Pushes Off).

Dorbes is more forthcoming on the fact that the vendor has already struck a carrier win. “We demo'd the service at the GSM Congress in February and have one unannounced customer in Europe. We also have a number of ongoing trials, including one in Latin America.”

PTT-type services have already experienced success in the U.S., with Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) claiming to generate around 20 percent of its revenue from the Motorola-supplied technology (see Nextel's Nationwide Walkie-Talkie). Last August Verizon Wireless launched a similar offering (see Verizon Pushes-to-Talk, Finally ).

Such success has seen the technology touted by some as the wireless industry’s revenue savior, with European carriers preparing to roll out PTT-type services later this year (see Orange Pushes Startup, MMO2 Joins PTT Gang, and Europe Catches PTT Bug).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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