ATandT Pushes Enhanced PTT as Sprint Phases Out iDEN

AT&T says that businesses can now preregister for its Enhanced Push-to-Talk Services, which will officially become available in November.

AT&T is now accepting registration materials from companies that would like to sign up for its Enhanced Push-to-Talk (PTT) services. They will officially become available in November.

Can't wait until then? AT&T understands such impatience and so is also offering an "early access" program in which customers can activate a beta version of Enhanced PTT with no charge for the PTT client until the service officially launches. They can also preregister now and receive discounts on compatible smartphones.

The service will run over 3G and 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connections and be compatible with a company's proprietary mobile applications as well as network-based apps. Customers can expect to be able to call up to 250 people with the press of a button; have a real-time view of who's available to talk at the moment; download the AT&T Enhanced PTT client to compatible mobile devices without the need for any special configuration; and use mobile applications, GPS and the cameras on their smartphones while on calls.

Supervisors will also have the ability to override PTT calls in progress to convey urgent news.

At launch, AT&T will offer six handset options, and going forward it has plans to offer dispatching software for use on the network.

"A taxicab company, for instance, could use the location-aware dispatch application to determine which driver is closest to a pickup location, and then call the driver over PTT," AT&T suggested in a Sept. 18 statement.

AT&T says its service comes as more than 24 million Private Mobile Radio (PRM) users are looking for an alternative due to the Federal Communications Commission's Narrowbanding Mandate. The mandate, an effort to make more efficient use of the spectrum, a much-fought-after commodity in the wireless industry, calls on public safety and business industrial radio systems operating in the 150MHz to 512MHz radio bands to switch from 25kHz efficiency technology to at least 12.5kHz by Jan. 1, 2013.

It also comes as Sprint works to shutter its iDEN network, shooing customers off its 800MHz spectrum so that it can be repurposed for its growing LTE network. Earlier this month, Sprint said it will bring LTE to 100 new markets by the end of the year.

During Sprint's second-quarter earnings call, CEO Dan Hesse described how AT&T and Verizon Wireless, though more so the latter, have been inheriting its iDEN subscribers.

"In a typical year prior to this one, based on porting data, we estimate Verizon got almost half of all iDEN [customers]. Sprint recaptured about 25 percent, AT&T acquired 20 percent and T-Mobile about 5 percent," Hesse said on the call.

"In 2012, for the first time," Hesse added, "the Sprint platform is outacquiring Verizon, as we're more than doubling Sprint's historical share of Nextel postpaid DX."

During the first quarter, Sprint recaptured 60 percent of its iDEN users-a rate that even Hesse, while delighted, didn't expect Sprint to repeat.

Sprint says it will complete the shutdown of its remaining Nextel platform cell sites by June 30, 2013, at the earliest.

Chris Hill, AT&T's vice president of Advanced Mobility Solutions, said the charter program is already receiving strong feedback, as it enables companies to "solidify their PTT migration plans now."