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Qualcomm lands push-to-talk deal in India

Later this year, an Indian telecommunications provider plans to introduce a Qualcomm-based service that lets people turn their cell phones into walkie-talkies.

Qualcomm is taking its push-to-chat service beyond U.S. shores.

On Thursday, the San Diego company announced a deal to introduce the service in India, over the networks of Tata Indicom, by the middle of 2004. Tata will be one of the first Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators outside the United States to launch the walkie-talkie service, the companies said.

Tata will use Qualcomm's BREWChat technology to develop the push-to-talk service, along with other wireless applications and services, for up to 7 million customers. BREWChat is based on Qualcomm's binary runtime environment for wireless BREW download software.

Push-to-talk technology enables people to connect directly and immediately by pushing a button, as they would with a walkie-talkie, rather than by dialing a number and going through the phone network. Only one person can talk at a time, a cost-saving measure that eliminates the dead air of any phone conversation. About 20 carriers worldwide are considering offering a push-to-talk service.

The Indian service is also designed to let Tata customers download games and ring tones as well as use e-mail. Initially, Tata will introduce the service in six networks and then extend it to 11 other areas, where it is licensed to offer phone services. At present, the operator has 1.22 million CDMA wireless users.

"We envisage that push to chat, which is a huge success in the United States, will receive an overwhelming response here in India, given the profile of our subscribers," Amit Bose, president of telecommunications at Tata, said in a statement.

CDMA technology accounts for about 20 percent of the worldwide cell phone market, mostly in North and South America. Far more popular, with about 70 percent of the market, is the Global System for Mobile Communications cellular standard.