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Few carriers pushing 'push to talk'

Just as Nextel and two other carriers expand their services for the cell phone walkie-talkie feature, a new study finds businesses reluctant to adopt the technology.

Nextel Communications and two other carriers are expanding their services for a cell phone walkie-talkie feature called "push to talk"--but a new study predicts a slow uptake of the technology among businesses.

The survey, from industry watcher Telephia, found that a relatively low number--25 percent--of the 1,500 corporate executives surveyed said they expect to use push to talk. The study also found that just 7 percent plan to make the technology available within the next 18 months. The feature instantly connects phones rather than taking the time to find a network connection and dial out.

The high initial cost for handsets capable of the feature plus less-than-adequate security to guard calls from interception are major reasons for businesses' reluctance, according to Telephia.

The survey comes just a few weeks before Verizon Wireless is expected to launch the first of three new services that are similar to Nextel's DirectConnect and aimed at business clientele. Nextel so far is the only carrier to offer such a service.

Sprint PCS, however, plans to offer a more friendly version for consumers later this year, and the company expects that teenagers especially will go for the service. AT&T Wireless said it will test a service next year.

Nextel has exclusively offered its walkie-talkie option in North America for more than a decade. But its range has never been more than a few hundred miles at a time. Nextel said that by Sept. 1 each of its DirectConnect subscribers will be able to reach anyone in the continental United States.