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CDMA Still Delivers, and Push-to-Talk is Revived

Despite the fact that my wireless coverage on this blog has been entirely dedicated to WiMAX and LTE, there are other wireless technologies that deserve attention as well. Motorola launched its next generation push-to-talk (PTT) solution for CDMA networks today, and I had a chance to sit down with Motorola’s Jacqueline Majka, Senior Product Marketing Manager, to learn a little of the context around the announcement. Why CDMA? And what’s the big deal about push-to-talk? Here’s what I learned.

Why are people still talking about CDMA? Shouldn’t the focus be on WiMAX and LTE now?

WiMAX is underway and LTE is on the horizon, but at present CDMA networks still carry all the voice and data traffic and they will continue to be the dominate networks for years to come. We therefore need to take care of CDMA operators and the consumers who use CDMA mobile phones today. That means more than just maintaining service; it means continuing to innovate on 3G platforms. With the mobile broadband speeds available on 3G networks, carriers have an opportunity to launch new Internet-based applications and even revive older ones like the push-to-talk feature. Push-to-talk is an entirely different experience on a 3G network than it was on 2G.

Can you briefly explain what push-to-talk is?

At its most basic level, it is a feature that allows mobile phones to function like walkie-talkies. It’s a voice-over-IP application, which is why the underlying data network is so important for a quality push-to-talk experience.

The push-to-talk feature had success when it hit the market a few years back, but it’s always been a niche offering. Why do you think that will change?

Again, it’s all about the data network. On 2G networks there was a lot of latency with PTT. It could take five to seven seconds to connect, which entirely defeated the point of instant communications. On a 3G platform, such as a CDMA 1x EVDO Rev A network, that latency is down to around one second. It’s a lot more like other types of instant communications that people use regularly – instant messaging, texting, even newer services like Twitter.

What is Motorola’s role with PTT?

Motorola has been doing push-to-talk over cellular networks since 2004, not to mention the company’s decades of experience in two-way radio communications. Today we launched a next-generation PTT solution that’s optimized for CDMA EVDO Rev A networks and offers competitive connection times. We’ve also added access to a buddy list, making the experience more like instant messaging with voice for individuals and groups.

What kind of reaction do you think you’ll see from operators and consumers to the “new” push-to-talk offering?

Operators are already on board. Verizon Wireless, for example, just re-launched push-to-talk and clearly believes the feature and new PTT handsets will be appealing to consumers. We think the time is right for consumers too. Push-to-talk falls clearly in line with other consumer communication behaviors, and the underlying technology is solid. I think the reaction will be very positive.

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