Now you can use your mobile phone like a mini-broadcast or conference service to address closed user groups, with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) clearing the way for push-to-talk (PTT) services that use special handsets built to access radio frequency channels.
Officials said on Monday that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has allowed cellular mobile service companies and universal access service licencees to offer the PTT service in which consumers use handsets enabled with special PTT keys. Companies that use one-to-many communications such as service engineers, school bus drivers, taxi drivers, transport fleets and courier service providers are expected to benefit from this.
"This would substantially enhance the mobile subscriber base," said TV Ramachandran, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India.
A button provided on mobile phone allows the transmission of voice to many users on the same frequency with a press of a button. When the PTT button remains unpressed (or "unkeyed"), any radio traffic that is received on the selected channel or frequency is heard through the radio's speaker. For example, a coordinator at a dial-a-taxi service can keep in touch with all members of her fleet to divert them to customer points and get their feedback on locations to manage them efficiently.
Hutchison Essar had an early start in PTT, but had to stop it following the directives from the DoT. Harit Nagpal, marketing director, Hutch said, "We launched this service about two years ago as we saw benefit for the consumers. But we were asked to stop. Now, if the DoT has given the go-ahead, we would start the service again."
Telecom handset manufacturers are optimistic. Lloyd Mathias, director, marketing, mobile devices, Motorola India said, "It is a positive move and will enhance the usage of mobile service. Most of our handsets available are PTT compliant and are available for Rs 7,000."
Ashok Sood, president, corporate regulatory Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) said PTT would extend value-added services to a special class of customers going beyond usual mobile phone services.
"It is basically a packet data service which does not use a dedicated voice channel, which means the wireless specturm is used in the most effecient manner," he said.
DoT has put a rider that the service providers would have to provide prior information to the licensor and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), before launching the service commercially.
"It means better service at lower cost for a niche segment of users and companies like Hindustan Unilever Ltd and other fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies and a new opporunity for operators to enhance revenue with a minimum usage of spectrum," said Prashant Singhal, industry anlayst at global consultancy firm Ernst & Young.
Vivek Gambhir, analyst with Bain & Company, said PTT would be an alternative mechanism for an "always-on" connection for consumers and operators can look forward to reduce the subscriber churn, even if there is an initial fall in revenues. Typically, group subscriptions would reduce chances of subscribers walking out.