Verizon Wireless Makes Push-to-Talk Challenge

Targeting business users needing quick contact with co-workers, Verizon Wireless has introduced a national push-to-talk service to challenge Nextel .

The walkie-talkie option lets callers connect in seconds with other customers (either one-on-one or groups to 10) by pressing a button on their phone.

“(The move) addresses an emerging market that combines convenient connectivity with dependable wireless voice and data services,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless COO.

The service also shows users (via a icon on their handset) whether a user on their calling list is available, a popular feature borrowed from instant messaging platforms.

Verizon Wireless is folding unlimited one-to-one walkie-talkie service into its America’s Choice national calling plans, which start at $60. Customers must also buy a new Motorola V60 phone for $150, plus a two-year contract. Verizon Wireless will reportedly also introduce Samsung phones in coming months.

Nextel was first to offer the feature 10 years ago. Connecting without dialing a full number proved popular with many users, especially contractors and others in the trades who see it as a time-saver.

The Reston, Va., company claims 11 million users for the service. A recently completed national rollout lets Nextel subscribers have the equivalent of a walkie-talkie conversation with someone 3,000 miles away. Previously, the service was only available regionally.

Chris Grandis, a Nextel spokesman, said Nextel has advantages over Verizon, a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodaphone Group. Nextel will also face a challenge in the walkie-talkie service from Sprint PCS which is poised to enter the fray.

“We pride ourselves on sub-second connection, which is key to our customers,” Grandis told “Plus, every one of our hansets has direct connect.”

Calling plans, plus direct connect service, start at $40 per month, Nextel said. All the company’s plans include some quantity of direct connect minutes.

There’s no love lost between the competitors. Two months ago, Verizon Wireless sued Nextel for allegedly obtaining a prototype phone equipped with a walkie-talkie feature.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Virginia, also charges that Nextel passed proprietary information to a telecommuications industry analyst.

Nextel maintains that it “conducted itself properly” and has asked that the suit be thrown out.

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