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Sprint debuts 'push to talk' service

The telecommunications provider unveils a walkie-talkie-like service to facilitate short, instant voice calls among its customers.

Sprint on Monday announced a new service designed to let its customers talk with the push of a button, like a walkie-talkie.

PCS Ready Link service is intended to facilitate one-to-one or group calls for up to five persons on the PCS network. The same phone number can be used for voice and Ready Link calls. Customers will have the option of managing their personal directories and group lists either directly from their handsets or from the company Web site. The service will be available to Sprint's customers nationally.

"Push to talk" has engaged the attention of American telecommunications operators for some time. Nextel Communications is already offering a service that lets subscribers reach others by pushing a button on the side of the phone rather than dialing a telephone number. Verizon Wireless also offers a push-to-talk service.

The Ready Link service costs $15 per month for unlimited service. Sprint is offering a promotion of two free months of the Ready Link service and PCS Vision, its digital photo service.

For the new service offering, Sprint has partnered with Sanyo to launch two phones at $300 apiece. Sprint said customers will get a discount of up to $150 on the handsets, depending on the service agreement. The phones will feature built-in speakerphones, the ability to browse the Net and messaging services. A third model will come with improved picture capabilities and will be launched by year-end.