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Qualcomm, Nokia to get pushy

The two companies are backing competing standards for push-to-talk, the service that lets cell phone customers talk to one another with just the push of a button.

Qualcomm and Nokia appear headed for a smackdown over push-to-talk, the service that lets cell phone customers talk to one another with just the push of a button.

Nokia, Motorola, Siemens and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications back a standard the technology, known as Push-to-Talk Over Cellular. The standard, however, won't likely be approved by standards bodies for another year.

But during the last few weeks, Qualcomm has begun courting makers of push-to-talk software that haven't joined the Nokia-led initiative. These companies all make noninteroperable software that cell phone service providers use to sell these walkie-talkie-style calls. The San Diego-based chipmaker wants to create a gateway--an entry and exit point on a network--that would allow for push-to-talk calls between carriers using these different types of software, a source familiar with Qualcomm's plans said.

Besides making chips used in about 18 percent of the world's phones, Qualcomm also makes push-to-talk software that's called QChat. Joining the Qualcomm initiative, according to a source familiar with Qualcomm's moves, are , Togabi and Mobile Tornado.

Qualcomm asked push-to-talk software maker Sonim Technologies to join the initiative, but the San Mateo, Calif.-based company declined, according to Johan Samuelsson, Sonim's senior director of product marketing.

For nearly a decade, Nextel Communications' DirectConnect was the only push-to-talk service available worldwide. But in the last year or so, Sprint and Verizon Wireless have launched rival services. Still, there are no intercarrier push-to-talk calls.

Gateways represent a much quicker solution for carriers than waiting for a standard to be finalized and adopted, a process that could take years from inception to showing up in products, he said. But gateways are expensive to buy and install, and billing issues "could be very messy," he adds.

Qualcomm representatives did not return calls seeking comment. The company has been in a quiet period, leading up to its quarterly earnings report Wednesday.