Verizon Wireless this week said it will a turn up a nationwide "push-to-talk" service on Monday.
Verizon Wireless will become only the second mobile operator to offer the walkie-talkie-type service. Up to now, Nextel differentiated itself on its push-to-talk service, which observers attribute to the wireless operator's industry-low customer churn rate.
Analysts expect Sprint PCS to launch a similar service later this year.
Push-to-talk allows customers to connect directly with other push-to-talk users on the same network by pressing a button on their handset. Business customers can set up and manage group calling lists on Verizon Wireless' Contact Management Web site without going through customer service or a Verizon Wireless retail store, the carrier says.
This feature supports groups of up to 10 participants. Users can create up to 50 group lists and store 150 individual push-to-talk contacts, Verizon Wireless says.
The service supports Motorola's V60p digital handset, which sells for $150 with a two-year contract for the Verizon Wireless service. Analysts say existing Verizon Wireless handsets cannot be retrofitted to handle the push-to-talk service but that later this year, Verizon Wireless plans to roll out other push-to-talk-capable handsets.
The monthly access fees for the service - which is an add-on to Verizon Wireless' America's Choice plans and includes unlimited one-to-one push-to-talk - range from $60 to $220, depending on the number of America's Choice voice minutes, which range from 400 to 3,200.
Until Nov. 2, all push-to-talk customers receive unlimited night and weekend calling, as well as 1,000 national mobile-to-mobile minutes, Verizon Wireless says. Customers who sign up for plans of $80 or more will also receive 100 to 200 additional minutes, depending upon the plan they select, the operator says.
Customers who sign up before Dec. 31 receive free group push-to-talk calling for the term of their service plan, Verizon Wireless says.