Push-to-Talk will reach 8.5% penetration in North America

Push to Talk (PTT), the mobile phone feature that enables users to connect virtually instantaneously with other users, is forecast to find its way into 8.5% of the North American market by year end 2013, but in no other world region will it even begin to approach that market share. What is the reason for this global disregard?

According to ABI Research senior analyst Mark Beccue, it is all about the business model. “Operators that have tried Push to Talk outside the US have missed the essential point,” he said: “PTT is a business application. Used in vertical businesses, PTT makes sense: its one-to-many functionality can be very useful. Its best known exponent, Nextel (now Sprint-Nextel) proved that with its subscriber numbers. But strangely, in other world regions MNOs have failed to market PTT successfully to business users or have opted to market to consumers, and it just hasn’t taken off.”

In an attempt to boost consumer appeal, a new generation feature called PTX has been created; it extends the PTT principle to include multimedia content. But, says Beccue, “Nobody has proven the use-case for that, any more than for consumer PTT.”

But there are some steps operators can take, which could help unlock the PTT market. Steering away from PTT-specific handsets is one. Another more risky move would be to migrate to an open model. Today, most PTT services are proprietary: only those on the same network and owning particular handsets can use them. To overcome the limitation, PTT solutions providers could enable cross-carrier interoperability via downloadable and clientless applications.

Some vendors are addressing those issues: in the UK, Push to Talk Ltd offers downloadable client software which, along with a monthly fee, allows users to do cross-network PTT. And Kodiak Networks offers downloadable and preloadable PTT applications that reduce the need for users to have PTT-capable handsets.