Ericsson pushes for talk across CDMA, GPRS

Friends, relatives and coworkers with cell phones on different kinds of data-enabled networks will be able to communicate using push-to-talk services if carriers implement the Ericsson Instant Talk system announced Monday by telecommunications infrastructure vendor Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson.

Push-to-talk allows a cell phone to act like a walkie-talkie so users can quickly and easily get in touch with their most important contacts. Nextel Communications has made a popular service out of this capability on its iDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) infrastructure. Nextel has sold its service mostly to enterprises. Push-to-talk capability can save time for professionals but also allow for enhanced communication among friends and family members, according to Ericsson.

Ericsson Monday demonstrated at the CTIA Wireless trade show a push-to-talk call between GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) and CDMA2000-1x networks. Carriers can install the Ericsson system on their networks and, once they establish business arrangements with other carriers, can offer customers a service that reaches the other type of network, said Peter Lancia, director of product and technical marketing for CDMA systems at Ericsson.

Instant Talk is a standards-based, server-based system designed for integration into networks from any vendor, and is also a platform that can be used to bring in other packet-based phone services in the future, according to Ericsson.

In addition to CDMA2000-1x and GSM/GPRS, Instant Talk is designed to work across EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), Wideband CDMA and wireless LAN networks. Additional features include a list of which contacts are on the network at a given time, and a message feature that lets users pick up a spoken Instant Talk message if they missed it earlier. It uses packet-based voice transmission, which also will allow the system to be used for instant messaging, video phone calls and instant sending of live digital photos in the future, Lancia said.

Latency, historically a key problem with packet voice, has been tackled down to a two-second delay in call setup and one second during calls, judging from Ericsson tests, Lancia said. Carriers can use other mechanisms in their networks to give higher paying customers' calls priority over those of lower paying customers.

Because Instant Talk is based on open standards, carriers with different kinds of networks can make it work without complicated configuration work, according to Ericsson, although they will have to make business arrangements to allow the communication. The system also does not require any other new investment in those existing packet data networks, Lancia said. The recently announced P800 phone from Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB is equipped with a push-to-talk button. Other phones can be modified to assign that function to an existing button, he said. The technology will be commercially available to carriers in the second half of this year, according to Ericsson.

CTIA Wireless continues through Wednesday.

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