AT&T has announced a new Push-to-Talk (PTT) service that runs on its LTE network, targeting business and public safety customers with new ruggedized devices and the promise of new perks as well as service quality that is comparable to legacy technologies.
The carrier already offers several devices that can be used for the Enhanced PTT service, including two BlackBerry devices and the Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro, and two other Samsung Galaxy devices onto which the new PTT service can be downloaded. The Galaxy Rugby Pro is an Android smartphone built to military specifications with full device encryption and corporate email support.
AT&T is working on bringing two others to its lineup: the Sonim XP5560 Bolt, designed for “businesses that operate in the most extreme environments,” and the Samsung Rugby III, a ruggedized flip phone. Some of the devices are free through AT&T Business Solutions with a two-year contract.
“For workers in industries like construction, manufacturing and public safety, mobile devices that can withstand hard conditions are essential,” said Chris Hill, senior vice president, advanced solutions, for AT&T Business Solutions. “We’re offering AT&T Enhanced PTT on a variety of rugged devices to give our customers the performance and durability they need to get in touch quickly on the job – no matter what conditions they face.”
Two rate plans are available for the LTE PTT service. It can be added to existing AT&T voice and data plans for $5 per month, or subscribers can sign up for a PTT-only rate plan for $30 per month with no voice or non-PTT data included. Both plans include unlimited PTT.
Additional features of the new PTT service include:
- Larger contact lists and talk groups than competitive PTT solutions, according to AT&T.
- Supervisory override and talk group scanning, which were previously only available on two-way radios.
- Ability to combine PTT service and mobile applications, with help from AT&T
- Sub-second call set-up
“Based on our rigorous testing across major U.S. markets, we found that AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk provides a robust user experience with call set-up times of less than one second and voice quality that compares favorably with traditional cellular voice services,” said Amit Malhotra, global director of insights at Metrico Wireless, which is now part of Spirent Communications.
The future of the public safety market, which relies heavily on PTT capabilities and Land Mobile Radios, is changing as the planning stage begins for the new FirstNet national LTE network. In recent comments to FirstNet, AT&T opined that primary use of the network “should be limited to entities that directly provide public safety services” and that funds for the network “should be used only to support public safety, not to facilitate the deployment of commercial wireless services.”
The carrier also said that FirstNet should make mobile network operator participation worthwhile, and that a “business model that involves disaggregating an MNO’s wireless network may not incent MNOs to participate with FirstNet, wheras MNO’s may forsee more advantages in a business model that involves FirstNet users roaming on an MNO’s network while FirstNet builds out[its network].”
Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel – a traditional heavyweight in PTT with its Nextel business – has been continuing to migrate iDEN subscribers to its CDMA PTT product as it decommissions the iDEN network, which is expected to be shut down in 2013. The company has struggled with iDEN customer defections affecting churn; Sprint Nextel reported in September that it surpassed the 1 million customer mark on its Sprint Direct Connect PTT platform. Last month it announced a new downloadable Android application that enables PTT capabilities on some devices without a dedicated PTT button.