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MMO2 Joins PTT Gang

U.K. Wireless operator mmO2 plc will jump on board the European push-to-talk (PTT) bandwagon later this year, Unstrung can exclusively reveal.

The operator plans to compete with Orange SA’s (London/Paris: OGE) service, due in the second quarter and announced earlier this week (see Orange Pushes Startup).

PTT allows people to use their phones as walkie-talkies, merely pushing a button to talk to another user or group of users.

According to mm02’s press relations manager, Simon Gordon, the carrier is currently trialing PTT in Britain and aims to launch commercial services “later this year.”

“It could be a European-wide rollout,” Gordon says. “We will be looking to conduct a couple more trials in the second quarter. The onus is that we are not going to launch it until it works across a number of devices.”

MM02’s efforts are in keeping with analysts' belief that most Tier 1 European carriers will consider launching the technology in the next twelve months (see Europe Catches PTT Bug and PTT: The New SMS?).

“Push-to-talk services will gain much publicity this year and force rival operators to launch similar services to catch up with Orange,” claims Michael Ransom of Current Analysis.

“I would certainly expect other players to follow suit,” comments IDC’s Paolo Pescatore.

“Other operators will follow for sure,” agrees Ovum Ltd.’s Jeremy Green. “It doesn’t cost much to roll out. After all, it isn’t a new network or radio technology.”

Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Europe’s largest wireless carrier, is keeping an open mind. “We are evaluating it at the moment,” says Ben Padovan, deputy head of group media relations. “We will not commit until we have seen the results of those evaluations.”

T-Mobile International AG also admitted it is “evaluating the technology.”

A spokesperson for Telecom Italia Mobile SpA (Milan: TIM) opined that PTT is not part of its plans “at the moment,” while Telefònica Mòviles SA declined to comment.

PTT has already experienced significant success in the U.S., with Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) claiming to generate around 20 percent of its revenue from the technology. Last August Verizon Wireless launched a similar service (see Verizon Pushes-to-Talk, Finally ).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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