Hands-on with AT&T Enhanced Push to Talk

Kathryn Weldon
Kathryn Weldon

Summary Bullets:
•    AT&T recently launched its Enhanced Push to Talk (EPTT) service, available on three ruggedized devices, and gave us a hands-on demo
•    Did the test meet our expectations and what did we learn about AT&T’s opportunity and the PTT market in general?

AT&T provided our analysts a chance to get “hands-on” with its EPTT solution on the 4G LTE Rugby Galaxy Pro. We have been writing about PTT recently, wondering aloud about the size of the market opportunity. AT&T’s launch was certainly timely, as Sprint is rapidly cutting off its remaining iDEN users (even charging them $10 to stay on the network), which will strand what has been the biggest base of PTT users if they don’t upgrade to Sprint’s upgraded QChat CDMA based offering.

As we began to try the service, we found the app easy to set up and use, with excellent latency, sound quality and speaker volume. The interface tells the user when it is their turn to talk with a picture of a microphone, which turns green when it’s your turn to talk, and red when it’s not. The ability to set Presence (as unavailable or available) is useful when calling colleagues in a work-group. In the PTT contact list you can see if the person you want to call is available, unavailable, or out of coverage (by a colored circle with a P in it). We also learned that there is a supervisory over-ride feature, which is really important to avoid chaos, especially as you can have up to 250 users in a single talk group who might all want the floor at the same time. AT&T also pointed out that since the SIM keeps your PTT contact info, it is very easy to do a simple SIM swap if one of your co-workers forgets his phone or has forgotten to charge it. The application interface is generally simple and forgiving; for example, it provides options to use cellular or PTT, and shows you how to send an alert to tell a colleague you want to start a PTT conversation.

For AT&T, it seems clear that the primary opportunity for EPTT is the iDEN base who need to get off the network by June 2013. The next wave of users will be narrowband land mobile radio (LMR) users in government and public safety, as there is a mandate for them to upgrade by the end of the year, although there are waivers that are being accepted to push the date forward. LMR users can also choose a totally private solution, but that will cost more and will require an expensive, dedicated device for communication, rather than a smartphone they can use for a variety of applications.

There is still a market for PTT among public safety and field workers and EPTT provides an experience that is unique – it is faster than cellular – important when you need to be in touch quickly but don’t necessarily want to have a long conversation. While it is unlikely that there will be much consumer take-up, but AT&T really is focused on making the service enterprise-grade. We still have to play with all the admin features to appreciate the new capabilities (maybe for the next blog).

What do you think?

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