Rumblings, and now progress

Reading the Nextel newsgroups, I saw a post about how Nextel was doing surveys asking people what they might do if other cell carries started a push-to-talk feature like Nextel’s DirectConnect. I went on to speculate (not on my blog) about the Nextel service, since I have just become a subscriber. It all seemed very clear to me. Nextel phones are bulkier, have shorter battery life, less features, worse screens, and older technology then the other carriers. The only thing Nextel has going for it is its PTT service. Now this is no mean feat. The iDEN service that Motorola and Nextel developed is truly wonderous, and the PTT service is magnificant, but because of the low volumes and the huge investment required to launch the service, not to mention the massive spectrum buys required, Nextel is in huge debt and has to sell their services at a premium, while offering fewer features then their competitors.

If Verizon or AT&T or Sprint can do a few things, including unified billing, giving out numbers in blocks, and, most importantly, engineering a nationwide, sub-one-second connect time PTT system, the whole world will change. Seriously, PTT is that cool. The social etiquitte of always-available instantaneous walkie-talkie-like services is still being explored. When it gets to the masses, it will take off, and the social experiment will be fascinating.

First each system will be proprietry, like the various SMS schemes, but eventually they will need to interconnect if they want to make a useful system. As much as the cell companies hate it, they must work together. Their silly and short-sighted single-network solutions harken back to the AT&T phone monopoly of old, and it is just stupid. But when I can PTT with my friends on Verizon and Sprint, boy, that’ll be neat.

One reply on “Rumblings, and now progress”

  1. It seems like there are two parts to this problem — a technical issue, and a user interface issue.

    The technical problem is the time it takes from when a call is placed on Alice’s handset to when Bob’s handset starts ringing. Someone who knows more about the technical side of cellular phones is more than welcome to elaborate on that.

    The user interface issue deals with how calls are placed, I think. I’ve never used DirectConnect, so I don’t really know why it’s different from “placing a call is really quick” . Oh, you mentioned “distrubition lists” — sending a message to multiple people — in our IM conversation on this subject. Yeah, that’s an interface issue too.

    It seems like DirectConnect functionality could be done by improving call-placement time and adding a user interface identical to SMS but whose data is voice instead of text.

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