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VOIP services

Harris Wants to BeOn the Enterprise

Push-to-talk (P2T) is hardly the sexiest mobile technology, but it's also far from extinct. Radio communications vendor Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS) is breathing new life into the walkie-talkie tech with its announcement today of BeOn, a P2T service aimed at enterprises looking for managed group communications.

The voice-over IP (VoIP) service works across the globe, riding on top of 3G and 4G networks. Harris says that professional users can take part in traditional services like group calls, individual calls, group scanning, distress calls, and dispatch/administrative service, as well as integrate location, presence and status, and text messaging.

BeOn will work on the typical rugged P2T devices and Android-based smartphones over "multiple domestic and international GSM-based wireless carriers," but John Vaughan, senior president of global marketing for public safety and professional communications, wouldn't reveal names at this time, only noting that there's interest across the globe.

Harris is also developing its own P2T device that falls somewhere between a smartphone and radio to take advantage of the service, Vaughn says. Its to-be-announced carrier partners will offer the service and handsets to their enterprise customers, as well as set their own pricing for it.

Harris has made a name for itself in the public safety and public services arena with its integrated VIDA (Voice, Interoperability, Data, and Access) network platform. BeOn builds on VIDA, which connects commercial wireless networks, legacy, and future land mobile radio systems, but Vaughn says it's not meant to replace the legacy land mobile radio (LMR) systems, just to complement them with wireless apps.

The service is targeted toward industries with global assets, large footprints, or rural service geography, such as construction, field services, or the transport industry -- basically any company that relies on field workers and needs coordination and efficiency.

For example, Vaughn says if a prisoner is being transferred to another prison, both might have LMR systems, but they need a wireless P2T option when in transport. Losing track of that prisoner would be a mission-critical use case for obvious reasons.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is the name that typically comes to mind in P2T, as is its handset supplier Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), which kept its profitable P2T division in its divestiture to Nokia Networks . (See Moto Hangs On to $400M iDEN Biz.)

Unlike Sprint's P2T tech, which works over its iDEN and CDMA networks, Harris is differentiating BeOn with its use of VoIP and ability to traverse carrier networks. Vaughn says that Nextel P2T is fast, but BeOn is just as fast and is "future ready" in that it works on 3G and 4G networks as well.

"There really hasn't been one that put it all together and said here's a multi-network, multi-handset vendor, multi-carrier -- we hope -- global solution," Vaughn says. "It's a more advanced solution for push-to-talk, but it brings with it all our past features and functions that we know are important to group communication, like dispatch operations."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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