Nextel Deals to Direct Connect 3G Networks

Nextel Communications, Inc. is aiming to spread the hegemony of its popular Direct Connect feature worldwide in a 3G development deal announced Thursday with Qualcomm Inc. and Motorola, Inc. .

The Reston, Va.-based Nextel, the nation’s fifth largest wireless carrier with approximately 8 million subscribers, has built it base focusing on businesses and its exclusive Direct Connect feature that allows users to talk with each other at a push of the button. The system is built on Motorola’s iDEN platform.

According to Thursday’s agreements, Nextel and Motorola plan to develop a Direct Connect product for global wireless network operators using CDMA platforms based on Qualcomm’s QChat software. The deals would allow Nextel to sell and license the Direct Connect technology to other telecoms outside of the United States.

The agreements, which grant Nextel certain exclusive license rights in North America and several other international markets, are expected to enable Direct Connect push-to-talk functionality over wireless CDMA networks using a voice-over-IP architecture. Eventually, according to Nextel spokesperson Elizabeth Brooks, Nextel subscribers will be able to use their Direct Connect feature to reach other users around the world.

The Chicago-based Motorola will integrate the overall infrastructure solution for use in CDMA networks and will develop specific enhancements to CDMA2000 to ensure call set up, mobility management and iDEN interoperability necessary for Nextel’s Direct Connect service. Subject to a definitive agreement, Motorola will have marketing rights for the enhanced Direct Connect product outside the United States.

“Nextel is pleased to bring together these technology leaders to create a next generation Direct Connect service that will not only enhance our own future offerings but will also benefit network operators worldwide. Furthermore, developing Direct Connect on CDMA platforms, which will be interoperable with our iDEN-based Direct Connect service, will be an important milestone in Nextel’s eventual migration to a next generation platform,” said Tom Donahue, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nextel. “In the short term, we will continue to work with Motorola on our recently announced enhanced iDEN vocoder solution, and we look forward to extending our relationship with Motorola. When we make our 3G choice, Motorola will receive a minimum of fifty percent of our infrastructure and handset business.”

Added Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, chairman and CEO of the San Diego-based Qualcomm, “CDMA QChat software combined with Motorola’s infrastructure will enable the creation of a global community of Direct Connect users. For instance, a Direct Connect customer in Boston will be able to instantly communicate with a Direct Connect customer in Beijing.”

In addition, the technology will be designed to support dynamic management of group membership by subscribers to allow users to add and remove participants at any time on their handsets. This dynamic group management capability also would enable ad hoc creation of talk groups by users, in addition to the standing groups that an administrator may establish.

Other technology features are expected to include:

  • Support for over-the-air upgrade of handset software via Qualcomm’s Brew platform
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  • Access to directory services over the network, including Direct Connect listings
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  • Easy implementation of the user interface in multiple languages
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