Telus, Motorola extend Mike

Telus Mobility Inc. and partner Motorola Inc. last month announced enhancements to Telus’s Mike wireless network, including the expansion of its direct connect walkie-talkie service across Canada.

Mike, which was first introduced in 1996, is Telus’s “all-in-one” wireless personal communications system (PCS) phone, which combines direct connect two-way radio, fax, text messaging and Internet access in Motorola phones. It also features push-to-talk (PTT) technology, allowing customers to use their phones as walkie-talkies.

George Cope, president and CEO of Telus Mobility, said that although Mike phones were originally geared towards blue-collar workers, the system is now focusing on any business – including large enterprises – that aren’t purchasing wireless phones for fun, but to improve employee productivity.

According to Cope, PTT functionality has gained so much popularity in recent years that “there are [now] as many people in North America using direct connect as there are people in Canada using cell phones.”

The main obstacle that has been blocking PTT capabilities, which began with the original walkie-talkie technology in 1938, has been limited coverage, a problem that Telus is attacking with its new Mike phones, according to Cope.

Mike, which is based on Motorola’s integrated digital enhanced network (iDEN) technology, now allows users PTT access with any other Mike user in Canada. From Vancouver Island to eastern Quebec, Mike’s network area stretches almost 5,000 kilometres.

One customer who has been using the technology since its creation seven years ago said the PTT service is an extremely important, cost-effective product within his organization. Nerds On Site, a completely mobile computer services firm, originally chose the Telus product because, at the time, nobody else was offering a comparable solution, said Toronto-based John Harbarenko, co-founder of the company.

He added that Nerds On Site, whose employees drive from business to business providing computer technology solutions, is a real-time company that operates as a team. All computer technicians need to be in constant contact with one another, and with Mike they can do that with a touch of a button, Harbarenko said.

With “nerd mobiles” at work across the country, Harbarenko is excited about Mike’s enhanced capabilities to keep in touch with technicians on the west coast, giving all employees access to one another’s expertise instantly.

Unlike traditional cell phones – where a caller would let the phone ring seven times then leave a one-minute voice message that the desired party may or may not receive – the PTT capabilities of Mike phones allows Nerds On Site employees to stay in touch without delay, said Brian MacGowan, a computer services technician with the firm.

“If someone’s beeping me on my Mike, I know it’s important,” MacGowan added.

Motorola introduced four new phones at last month’s event- the Motorola i730, i305, i58sr and i205 – which will be part of Telus’s Mike family of products. They all feature access to global positioning system (GPS) functionality.