Someone Finally Admits PTT Is Overhyped
By Eric Lin, Tue Mar 30 23:15:00 GMT 2004

At a conference in London about Push To Talk, a T-Mobile exec finally questioned whether this is a feature subscribers really want. Carriers won't cancel PTT launches, but maybe they'll rethink them.

The Inquirer was there to see Carsten Otto, a Senior Program Manager at T-Mobile, ask if they weren't about to repeat the same mistake as when operators launched WAP as the mobile internet. The industry is certainly hyping PTT like they did WAP. The implementations are certainly as splintered as WAP 1.x. Worst of all latency, interoperability and hardware all raise concerns about the usability of PTT, just like WAP.

Based on the success of Nextel, the Western world has been hyping Push To Talk as the next big service. However Otto points out it's quite possible Nextel could be just as successful without the walkie talkie service. Nextel has done an excellent job of targeting the latest business acronym: SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Their high penetration into this market is what is primarily responsible for their low churn and high ARPU. What Otto neglects to comment on is whether PTT is what caused Nextel's thorough penetration into the business market in the first place.

One factor that can't be questioned is the actual difference in use of technologies across Western cultures. Otto points out that sales of actual walkie talkies are significantly lower in Europe than the US. Do carriers believe that by integrating the functionality into a mobile that it will become desirable? T-Mobile thinks it's unlikely, but the consensus at the conference was that it will depend heavily on standards and interoperability, which won't happen until next year at the earliest.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief at Otto's remarkable realism. After standards are in place and demand for Push To Talk has been carefully evaluated, carriers could pull together a plan for a successful launch. Until then we'll enjoy the relative peace and quiet of a minimum of PTT notification chirps- except on TV. Nextel has been bombarding us with commercials of people using PTT during inappropriate situations to get things "done." This is exactly why I think PTT will fail in consumer implementations- it invades the users personal space, something which we all take very seriously. I hope the handset manufacturers and standards bodies take that issue seriously before they release the spec next year.