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Qualcomm debuts 'push to talk' service in India

India's Tata announces a walkie-talkie mobile phone service that uses Qualcomm software and Kyocera's handsets.

Indian telecom service provider Tata Indicom on Thursday debuted a "push to talk" service that uses Qualcomm's BREW software and handsets provided by Kyocera.

The companies said Kyocera's KX440 mobile phone is the first CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) push-to-talk handset available outside the United States. The handset supports Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, or BREW, which is used by about a dozen carriers to sell downloadable ring tones, games or video mail programs. Qualcomm had announced the deal with Tata in March.

The entry-level push-to-talk phone is well-suited to emerging wireless markets in India, the companies said. India is one of fastest-growing wireless markets in the world. Analysts have estimated that the wireless subscriber base there will grow to more than 140 million customers by 2008. While Tata and Reliance are the leading CDMA service providers, the Indian market is dominated by the GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) standard.

Push-to-talk technology allows callers to connect to other cell phones with just the push of a single button, similar to a walkie-talkie. Only one person can talk at a time, and there is no need to dial a number.

Motorola and U.S. cell phone carrier Nextel Communications introduced the technology about a decade ago. For about eight years, difficulties perfecting such a service and the high price of push-to-talk handsets gave the two companies an almost exclusive hold on the market.

But now "the button" is spreading globally--mostly because a carrier's cost of adding the service has dropped with the introduction of alternative push-to-talk technologies from Qualcomm, Kodiak Networks and other companies. The price of handsets with the feature also have decreased.

For Kyocera, the Tata deal is part of its overall strategy to challenge push-to-talk pioneer and market leader Motorola within a year, executives said.

"We can't even track our share yet; there's very little 'industry' outside of Nextel" and Motorola, a Kyocera Wireless representative said. "Right now, our share doesn't show up as a full-scale blip. But within a year, we will be putting a lot of pressure on Motorola. That's the goal."

Tata initially ordered 300,000 push-to-talk phones, one of Kyocera's largest orders yet for such a handset. Kyocera also supplies U.S. cell phone service provider Alltel in the United States.

CNET News.com's Ben Charny contributed to this report.