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Bell wants to be like Mike. Is it pushing the right buttons?

18 Apr 2012

Bell Mobility is scrapping its legacy ‘10-4’ push-to-talk (PTT) service on 1 May 2012, in favour of ‘Bell Push to Talk’, a service which promises a one-button-press connection time of one second or less, an improvement compared to 10-4 which suffered from connection time delays. The new service is also aimed at taking market share from Canada’s PTT niche leader, Telus, which operates the iDEN-based ‘Mike’ service, but has initiated plans to phase out its iDEN network. As reported by the Globe & Mail, Bell says that its new ‘walkie-talkie’ service beats Mike in terms of coverage, data speeds, software and handsets. The newspaper adds that Mike, which is popular with business users in industries such as transport and construction, has roughly 365,000 users, or less than 5% of Telus’ 7.34 million total wireless subscribers, according to the company’s 2011 annual report. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that this figure is down from the ‘just under 7%’ of total Telus wireless subscribers using the Mike network which the company reported at end-March 2011, while Telus continues to target the migration of Mike customers to data devices on its HSPA+ network. However, the PTT market remains lucrative, despite stagnation in terms of user numbers.

Features of the new Bell Push to Talk include simultaneous voice and high speed data transfer over a range of devices including smartphones aimed at office support/field worker teams, the Globe & Mail’s report continues, although the core industry target market is catered for with the shock-proof and submersible Sonim XP5520 Bolt device. The more advanced feature line-up is aimed at filling a perceived gap forming in the market as Telus phases out iDEN. However, Jim Senko, Telus’ vice-president of small/medium business marketing, pointed out that this would not happen any time soon, and also indicated that Telus intends to trump Bell’s HSPA-based PTT solutions with its own 4G LTE-based PTT products, declaring: ‘We have no plans to shut down our Mike network… We are continuing to run it. In parallel to that, we are currently pursuing an LTE push-to-talk solution.’ He also claimed that Bell’s new PTT service could be affected by data congestion from other mobile users on the HSPA+ network (in contrast to the dedicated Mike iDEN network), although Bell refutes this suggestion.

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