Etisalat, the UAE's telecom operator, launched its new push-to-talk service in the UAE yesterday offering business sectors and individuals radio-style walkie-talkie type communication service over mobile phones.

Gitex 2005

Anyone with a GSM connection and a mobile phone which has the push-to-talk facility can send an SMS message to Etisalat on a 1010 number writing

s ptt to activate the service, said an Etisalat official at a press conference at Gitex.

The service is free for the next two months and Etisalat will finalise and announce a suitable pricing structure after that, said Nasser Bin Obood, deputy chief executive officer of Etisalat.

Initially the service will be limited to the UAE region but after the trial period the service will be available to Etisalat customers worldwide through their existing GPRS roaming partnerships, he said.

The solution has been enabled by Nokia, through the deployment of Nokia's push-to-talk over cellular network solution, said Dr Walid Moneimne, senior vice president of Nokia Networks for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The UAE is one of the first in the region to launch the service which is not limited to Nokia phones alone but supports other brands too, he said. Of the 40 Nokia models, 19 have the push-to-talk facility, he said.

Asghar Khan/Gulf News
Nasser Ahmad Bin Obood, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat (left), and Dr. Walid Moneimne, senior vice president of Nokia Networks for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at the launch of the new push-to-talk service in the UAE yesterday

Obood said the service was a big step for Etisalat and would be an ideal cost effective communication solutions for the logistics and constructions sectors.

He, however, expected it to be very popular among individuals and the youth segment of the population.

"Recent surveys have shown that 25 per cent [customers] would love to have the push to talk facility. In the UAE, the uptake will be high as it uses the same GSM network," he said.

Push-to-talk is an alternative to normal voice calls. The benefits of radio-style communication, especially while broadcasting among many users, make it more efficient than one-to-one phone calls or even call conferencing, said Dr Moneimne.

Nokia has a very large market share in the world in the push-to-talk market covering over 30 countries, he said.