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Phone4U brings ‘push to talk’ to UK

Voice Instant Messaging for mobiles

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UK mobile phone retail chain Phones4U will begin offering a multimedia instant messaging service next month when it brings Fastmobile's Fastchat IM service to Europe.

Fastchat integrates a variety of multimedia messaging formats, including photos, videos, e-mail and text, into a single application. IM communications can be held with any other handset equipped with the software, regardless of network, and with PCs via the Internet.

The software also provides an IM-based 'walkie talkie' voice mode, which has proved highly popular in the US as an alternative to standard voice calls. Dedicated 'push to talk' handsets, like those offered with Nextel's iDen service, put users in touch instantly at the press of a special button on the phone.

iDen uses non-standard mobile phone technology to deliver push-to-talk - Fastmobile's software delivers the same result using Internet-style Instant Messaging software and an 'always on' GPRS mobile data connection. Such services are offered to users who need to issue simple voice commands or requests that would be too laborious to text but too terse to warrant a dial-up phone call.

Phones4U will initially offer the service on three Symbian-based handsets: Nokia's 3650 and 7650 phones, and Sony Ericsson's P800 smartphone. The software will be offered with other Symbian-based devices, including the Nokia N-Gage, Siemens SX-1 and Motorola A920 as and when they are released.

The software will be offered to existing customers and new buyers as "a value added service", the company said. It did not reveal pricing. Fastmobile's web site, however, offers an unlimited monthly subscription of £6.99 per month. ®

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