There was news yesterday about FastMobile making a trans-atlantic push-to-talk phone call. I didn't see anyone get excited about it, and Jim even made fun of it, but it's AMAZING NEWS!
FastMobile, provider of the FastTxt mobile instant messaging system, has announced the successful completion of a London - Chicago 'walkie talkie' call using standard mobile handsets. The company used Nokia 3650 and 7650 devices equipped with FastMobile software and communicating with the company's own server to place a call from T-Mobile US to Orange and Vodafone in the UK.
Most existing 'walkie talkie' systems, such as Nextel's Direct Connect, are network-specific features, but FastMobile claims the demonstration shows its technology can be used to provide 'push-to-talk' capabilities using standard GPRS networks and equipment. The client application is Java-based and works on Symbian OS and other Java handsets.
FastMobile plans to integrate the service with its FastTxt application, enabling users to track when their contacts are available and send them messages by text and voice.
Look at that! It's amazing news because they're using the Symbian OS to transmit the voice! VoIP baby! YES! These aren't phones, they're mobile connected computers! This is an amazing example of what's possible on these Symbian phones and we're going to see a lot more innovation like this coming along soon.
Let me explain a bit more. The reason Nextel has such a lock on push-to-talk phones in the U.S. is because they have a special network which allows millisecond connect times between phones. You know how long a normal mobile phone takes to connect and dial a number. Push-to-talk is really handy for service personel, or places with spread out employees like a convention center or for where you need to instantly broadcasting messages to a lot of people like at a concert or football game. It's mostly businesses but I'm sure it'd be cool on a ski-slope too.
FastMobile used a regular GPRS connection - basically a wireless TCP/IP connection - to make the connection and transmit the voice. It's an incredible example of the changing dynamics of the phones. Using this technology, carriers like Sprint and Verizon who are desperately trying got catch up to Nextel in this market won't need to upgrade to a specialized network - they can just use specialized phones and the 2.5G and coming 3G connections they're already putting into place instead. It's a kick-ass technology.
Once FastMobile commercializes the app as FastChat, anyone who has a Symbian phone will be able to broadcast their voice instantly to their friends and family. Instead of potentially expensive long-distance phone calls, you can now do VoIP and use up your data instead. Attach your phone to your PC like I did the other day using Bluetooth and it won't cost you an extra dime. It's a reeeally cool app.
The one thing is that FastMobile is a bit psycho about their subscription-based IM app they just launched in the UK. The UI is a hell of a lot nicer than IM+ which I just bought for $30, but they want $5 a month minimum to use it, which I think is waaay too much. Especially for an app that already exists as softare and not a service. The VoIP stuff, however, is going to be cool. I mean, in general from their tech and website, FastMobile is what I'd love for Manywhere to be someday, but the IM service right now without the voice is a bit wacky.
Pretty great stuff. I'm jazzed... I love that mobile buzzz.