ReadyCom Inc. is in line to launch two-way voice paging services over networks already built, offering nationwide coverage and roaming capability. Its secret is cellular.

The Chapel Hill, N.C., company is amidst customer trials for three new ReadyTalk products that make it possible to receive, store, forward, respond to and initiate voice messages over 800 MHz cellular frequencies. The ReadyTalk Echo, Responder and Plus products each offer different layers of functionality, from a basic two-way voice pager to a full service cellular phone.

“What ReadyTalk’s all about is two-way voice messaging right now,” said Malcolm White, senior director of corporate relations. Other two-way voice pagers store messages, but none send messages back, he said. “Two-way creates a networking capability. It creates a lot of power for people.”

Memoranda of understanding are in place with GTE Mobilnet Inc., Kansas Cellular, PageMart Wireless Inc. and American Paging Inc. to provide ReadyTalk Services. ReadyCom noted that one cellular carrier, to be announced this week, plans to launch ReadyTalk’s Responder and Plus services in June in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Aggressive nationwide rollout will follow, said the company.

“We’re really on the front-end of this,” stated White, noting the company has been actively contacting carriers in only the last six weeks or so.

By transmitting voice messages via cellular, ReadyCom takes advantage of built networks, nationwide coverage and established roaming. Michael Lee, ReadyCom’s chief operating officer, noted that ReadyTalk users in any given market instantly gain access to the carrier’s home and roaming coverage.

The ReadyTalk Echo, manufactured by Maxon Corp., is a palm-sized unit that receives and sends voice messages and offers live access to 911 dispatch.

ReadyTalk Responder is a handset geared toward service businesses and other organizations on firm budgets that may need dispatch capability. The unit offers two-way voice paging and limited cellular calling. Responder has no keypad, which allows businesses to limit employees’ calling, but does feature nine cellular speed dial slots and 30 message slots for users to distribute messages to other ReadyTalk users. Within each slot, a message can be sent to a number of users.

A group call ability facilitates dispatch, and like all the units, Responder offers a live 911 connection.

ReadyTalk Plus is a cellular phone with two-way voice paging capability. ReadyCom has found that work groups communicate well where the dispatcher or boss uses the ReadyTalk Plus, and the field fleet is equipped with Responders.

Both Responder and Plus units are manufactured By Japan Radio Corp. International.

“Cellular carriers have multiple avenues for distribution,” said Lee. “They have customers they know want voice paging. Everybody’s reselling everybody. This is driving a lot of inquiry (into ReadyTalk). Carriers don’t want to be without two-way voice messaging,” noted Lee.

White said industry research shows between 40 percent and 60 percent of existing paging users prefer voice paging-at a price point in the low $20 range-over numeric and alphanumeric services.

ReadyTalk services provide cellular carriers an opportunity into new market segments and contribute to churn reduction, said Lee. Signing on work groups adds value, he added. “People tend to refer to friends and co-workers to also become part of their work group, which adds to the staying power of each individual.”

ReadyTalk adds to paging carriers’ portfolios of services. ReadyCom said it will help facilitate relationships between its paging operator clients’ and the cellular operators whose networks carry the signals.

ReadyTalk technology provides carriers with two cost-efficiency components. Before a ReadyTalk voice message is sent across the network, it is compressed, reducing size 1.3 to 2.5 times. As well, messages can be held in queue and distributed in groups, which adds to network efficiency, noted Lee. Pricing for ReadyTalk services will be determined by each carrier.

ReadyTalk services operate from the ReadyTalk Voice Server, installed at the carrier’s switch. The current RVS is configured for Analog Mobile Phone Service-based cellular systems, but ReadyCom holds patents to design services based on several digital protocols and at various frequencies. The RVS incorporates ReadyCom’s software with “standard off-the-shelf equipment,” said Lee. The platform uses a Pentium processor, Dialogic boards and does not require any changes to carriers’ switches.

ReadyCom intends to brand ReadyTalk as its own service, which can be co-branded with its carrier partners. ReadyCom will provide carriers coop advertising funding and sales support for distribution, said White.

The company was founded three years ago and holds patents for store-and-forward messaging through frequency reuse, said White.


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