This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Max Silber, executive director of mobility, MetTel
Before the era when cell phones became permanently glued to our hands and our ears, walkie talkies were the fastest and most efficient way of communicating over a short distance. As mobile technology advanced both the devices and the service, field workers such as construction companies and police departments became synonymous with the chunky phones and scenarios depicted in the Nextel advertisements of the late 1990’s. After the demise of the original iDEN Nextel National Network just a short year ago, some may think that the “push-to-talk” movement is over, but that is far from the truth.
Not Your Father’s Push-to-Talk
Today’s push-to-talk functionality has expanded beyond the bulky boxes associated with walkie talkies, and instead is provisioned through applications running over the nation’s most advanced cellular networks. These apps can be downloaded to a variety of mobile devices, ranging from Samsung’s rugged Galaxy Rugby Pro to Apple’s sleek and sexy iPhone, as well as across operating systems including Android, iOS and BlackBerry.
So what can push-to-talk do for your business? Think of it as a voice text message and it’s easy to see the benefits the real-time collaboration tool can provide. If you are part of a group, push-to-talk can provide quick and easy communication at the push of a button, with no dialing involved. It provides a faster connection across devices, offers close to hands-free operation and conveys a sense of urgency that most text messages cannot.
Imagine you’re a visiting nurse and need to report back to your superior from a patient’s bedside. With one hand you are able to connect through push-to-talk, leaving your other hand free to check the patient’s pulse or program a machine. The same goes for an IT team fanned out across a corporate campus during a service outage. While working to fix the problem, push-to-talk allows the team to connect with their peers seamlessly.
For anyone who has been along for the ride as mobile devices changed from the Nokia bricks of past, to flip phones and now touch screens, learning how to use the new technology can be a tricky and extends the learning curve. Push-to-talk requires minimal training, allowing even the least tech-savvy employee to master the communication tool in seconds.
The Evolution of Push-to-Talk Services
In 1996, Nextel launched its iDEN service, followed by the major cellular carriers coming to market with the first cellular push-to-talk solutions in 2003. Two years later, Sprint acquired Nextel, inheriting nearly nine million push-to-talk customers who had to migrate to Sprint’s CDMA Direct Connect network. By June 2013, quality-of-service issues, the burden of maintaining multiple networks and the need for spectrum to offer more profitable and newer data services ultimately led to the shutdown of the Nextel push-to-talk network.
While some companies were able to move forward without a glitch, others that relied heavily on push-to-talk services found themselves in a tough situation. Some companies had to accept the situation and move on, while others looked for a new option. Fortunately for the latter, the new push-to-talk app has provided the same level of connectivity with more advanced and reliable technology and service.
A New Generation of Enhanced Push-to-Talk
Push-to-talk has gone up and down over the last decade, but with newer, more advanced services now available for traditional and non-traditional apps it’s definitely on an upswing. When properly deployed, this “voice text message” service can increase efficiency, save time and enhance the productivity of any workforce. Forget about the walkie talkies of lore, companies should consider adding push-to-talk solutions to meet their total communications needs.