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Push-to-talk service in China: Indian arm helps Kodiak roll-out

Push-to-talk service in China: Indian arm helps Kodiak roll-out

Bangalore: China Mobile Ltd’s subsidiary, Jiangsu Mobile Communications Corp. has selected Kodiak Networks Inc. for its first ever push-to-talk deployment in China.

The Bangalore-based subsidiary of Kodiak designed and developed the application, which is a two-way communication service that works like a walkie-talkie by using a button on a mobile handset. In the first phase, it is expected to cover about 100,000 subscribers. Kodiak, which is based in the US, has 200 of its 270 employees in Bangalore.

This win marks Kodiak’s biggest deal outside its traditional US market. The initial implementation is in Jiangsu, one of the largest provinces of China with a population of 85 million, and a full commercial roll-out is likely to happen early next year on Nokia Symbian handsets. Jiangsu Mobile has 25 million subscribers.

The target customers for the technology will be corporate users with an emphasis on transportation, municipalities and retail segments.

Kodiak Networks was selected after a year-long trial in Jiangsu that covered 20,000 users. “We are positive of scaling up the service to other provinces in China as we see a huge potential there," says Giridhar Boray, India country manager for Kodiak Networks.

“This deal also demonstrates that a technology solution that has been developed in India can easily be deployed elsewhere in the globe," says Sridhar Pai, chief executive of Tonse Telecom, a telecom research firm.

Other Indian service providers who have deployed solutions in a few markets outside India have focused on Bollywood content and specific applications such as ring tones.

As per Wintergreen Research, there were 64 million push-to-talk subscribers globally in mid-2007 with the numbers expected reach 340 million by 2013.

But such technology hasn’t really taken off in India, despite efforts by Vodafone Essar Ltd and Tata Indicom.

Kodiak claims it is now in talks with leading mobile operators here for using the technology though it didn’tprovide details.

Bharti Airtel Ltd, Tata Indicom and Idea Cellular Ltd have used other offerings from Kodiak for group calling and group SMS.

Kodiak’s engineers here are working on a Web-enabling mobile application that will allow cellular operators to compete against Internet phone service providers such as Skype.

“New Web entrants like Skype, Yahoo, Pinger, Jaxtr have been fast displacing value-added mobile service revenue, as the Internet calls bypass the operator’s network. To combat this, we are working with some US-based operators in building an application that will allow the users to make calls on their laptop, using Internet but the calls will be routed through the operator’s network," says Boray.

The application is set to be commercially available in the US by the end of 2008.

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