Walkie-talkie standard gains traction

A cellular technology that has enjoyed growing adoption in the government sector is about to get a boost. Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., and other wireless companies have begun testing a new standard that will enable walkie-talkie features in a wide variety of cellular phones.

The new Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC) standard was submitted to the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) in August 2003.

Now Motorola, Ericsson and Siemens AG have begun joint interoperability tests to help speed delivery of compatible PoC solutions to network operators. The companies view interoperability as a key factor to broad-based acceptance.

The first interoperable PoC products and solutions should be introduced in the second quarter.

Recently, government workers, particularly first responders, have embraced handheld phones from Reston, Va.-based Nextel Communications Inc. because of their walkie-talkie features. Nextel's Direct Connect gives responders instant communications, but because it only works on Nextel's network, agencies are limited in the choice of device and service provider.

Although the new standard may lead to a larger selection of walkie-talkie enabled phones, further developments will be necessary to ensure maximum choice. The OMA is working to add a network-to-network interface to the PoC standard that would allow walkie-talkie communication among disparate cellular networks.

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