Orange has launched Talk Now, its commercial "push-to-talk" service, following nine months of customer trials across Europe. The service - a kind of voice-based, mobile instant messenger - is available to enterprise customers now, and will be rolled out to smaller companies and consumers later in the year.
This is the first European launch of the technology by Orange. The company plans to launch in France and Switzerland later in 2004.
The modified walkie-talkie service allows the user to broadcast messages to as many as ten people at once. As part of the launch in the UK, Talk Now is available on a promotional tariff where groupcalls are charged at the same rate as standard mobile calls.
The twist in that tale is that Orange is only making the full commercial tariff information available at the end of the promotional period. At that point, customers will have to chose between a bundle tariff, or a pay-as-you-go option.
The company says it is currently negotiating final pricing deals with corporate customers that were involved in the trials, including NHS Lothian.
Anyone wanting to sign up in the UK can do so, but only if they buy a Treo 600 handset. For the time being it is the only handset the service is available on, although Alcatel, LG, Nokia, PalmOne and Sagem have all been will all have alternative handsets available soon. ®