Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Push-to-Talk service set for debut

SEPTEMBER DATE Chunghwa Telecom will launch the service, which turns cellphones into walkie-talkies, in conjunction with Motorola, but rivals are holding off

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

State-run Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) plans to debut the Push-to-Talk Over Cellular service in September as part of its broader plan to expand its mobile business, a company official said yesterday.

The service, which turns mobile phones into walkie-talkies, allows mobile users to connect to other cellular phones with the push of a button.

"The new service will complement the mobile business by catering to the special communication needs of certain groups of end users, particularly enterprise users," said Shih Mu-piao (石木標), Chung-hwa's chief engineer.

Construction workers, restaurant waiters and department store clerks are among potential target users for the service, Shih said.

Chunghwa, the nation's second-largest mobile carrier with around 8 million subscribers, will be the first among the nation's mobile carriers to unveil the service.

In September, the company will launch the service in collaboration with US mobile phone giant Motorola Inc, Shih said.

Nokia Oyj, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, will also supply Chunghwa Telecom with two new models, he said.

"We believe the new service will help boost our mobile traffic and secure more sign-ups prior to the launch of speedy next-generation mobile service," Shih said.

The company said net income grew about 10 percent to NT$26.3 billion, or NT$2.73 a share, in the first six months, from NT$23.9 billion a year ago.

By contrast, private mobile operators Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大) and Far EasTone Communications Co (遠傳) are taking a wait-and-see position.

"We have been looking for good time to launch the service," said Josephine Juan (阮淑祥), a director of Taiwan Cellular's public affairs division.

"One key factor that hampers the introduction is system incompatibility," she said.

At present, Motorola mobile users cannot be connected to those using Nokia, or Sony Ericsson handsets. Chunghwa Telecom expects the technical problem will be solved by the end of the year, Shih said.

Far EasTone Spokesperson Yvonne Lan (藍綺萍) said her company will not launch a push-to-talk service anytime soon, citing platform incompatibilities.

"We're waiting for the technology to mature," Lan said, adding that Far EasTone has received requests from science park engineers and firefighters for such services.

In addition to the incompatibility of different makes of phones there is the incompatibility of the nation's three mobile operators' networks -- and that is a much harder problem to resolve, according to Chunghwa Telecom.

Plus, there is unlikely to be a huge demand for push-to-talk services here, although the service has gained popularity in the US, where shopping malls and hospitals are much larger than those in this country, said Stevie Chou (周奇賢) of SinoPac Securities Corp (建華證券).

"One thing that is certain is that a new service for mobile users will not be a killer application that will drive handset replacement," Chou said.

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