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TELECOM - PUSH TO TALK CELLULAR TECHNOLOGY IS A LITTLE LIKE INSTANT MESSAGING FOR VOICE

New gadget or useful tool?

THESE DAYS, you do not have to sit in front of a computer to enjoy the immediacy and transparency of instant messaging. New cellular technology, called push to talk (PTT), allows users to connect in real-time. To take advantage of PTT, however, you will have to go elsewhere. The two mobile phone operators in Slovakia will not offer the service to their customers anytime soon.

THESE DAYS, you do not have to sit in front of a computer to enjoy the immediacy and transparency of instant messaging. New cellular technology, called push to talk (PTT), allows users to connect in real-time. To take advantage of PTT, however, you will have to go elsewhere. The two mobile phone operators in Slovakia will not offer the service to their customers anytime soon.

Juraj Droba is the director of T-Mobile's corporate affairs in Slovakia. While he agreed that PTT is catching on in other parts of the world, he told The Slovak Spectator that the company would first evaluate the Slovak market before introducing the technology.

Orange was more direct. Peter Tóth, Orange's spokesperson in Slovakia, said it would not launch the service in the forthcoming future.

PTT is particularly useful for people who work in the field. Rarely at a desktop, this group does not have consistent access to traditional, PC-based instant messaging.

PTT enthusiasts say the technology can serve the needs of both business and personal clients. In addition to supporting the spontaneous sharing of information, users can quickly and easily create talk groups.

Mike Langberg, a writer with MercuryNews.com, published an article suggesting that PTT can be a little hard to grasp at first.

"You can think of PTT as turning mobile phones into walkie-talkies, where everyone on the same frequency hears each other and only one person can talk at a time," he wrote.

Langberg prefers to think about PTT as instant messaging for voice, in the same way that phone calls are the equivalent of electronic mail.

He continued: "E-mail is usually a one-to-one form of communication, and you don't know if the person on the other end will be there when you hit the send button. Phone calls are also one-to-one; likewise you don't know in advance whether the other person is available to answer. Instant messaging shows a list of your online buddies and indicates who is logged in at that moment. You can then start IMing one buddy or set up a chat group among several."

In other words, PTT liberates instant messaging from the personal computer.

Mobile phone operators sometimes introduce PTT as an alternative service to SMS, which has became one of the most popular services offered by mobile operators. Some global players expect PTT to overtake SMS in popularity. However, others remain cautious.

According to Tóth at Orange, "In the area of company communication, where [PTT] could be used, other systems have already proven themselves adequate. PTT has its advantages but they are not sufficient for initiating migration away from existing solutions."

Tóth is certain that PTT would not substitute SMS. "A written form of communication has its advantages. If someone wanted to send an employee an account number, he would not do it through PTT." He added, "Written text reduces the potential for mistakes."

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