Telus inks deal, intros new BlackBerries

Users of Telus Mobility’s Mike service will soon be able to carry on walkie-talkie transmissions south of the border as the Vancouver-based telco announced it is joining hands with Reston, Va.-based Nextel Communications Inc. earlier this week.

The partnership enables respective customers to use Direct Connect walkie-talkie services, which offer connection speeds of under one second, via Telus’ Mike and Nextel’s all-digital networks.

As part of its Push-to-Talk strategy, the Telus Mike service features a combination of digital phone, Direct Connect walkie-talkie, text messaging and Internet access in a phone device. Additionally, several Mike phones offer Java-based software as well as GPS functionality.

According to Telus, the extended service promises good things for businesses. As the U.S. is Canada’s largest trading partner in the world, enabling cross-border communications will bring the countries closer and lower the cost of long-distance interaction.

While the announcement “isn’t going to blow someone’s socks off,” Elroy Jopling, principal analyst with Gartner Canada Inc. said there are a number of winners as a result of the deal.

“From Telus’ perspective, they obviously lead in the Push-to-Talk area. This is very positive…and gives them a better command of that market. From the perspective of Nextel, it suddenly gives them a North American footprint and at the same time gets Telus into the Hispanic market, which is a significant market in the U.S.”

From the customer viewpoint, enabling easier and less expensive communication between the nations will be extremely beneficial to the Canadian business market, Jopling added.

“What Telus has been doing in wireless is incrementally building up a better brand,” he said, adding that while Telus is forever adding new services to its repertoire, competitors such as Bell Mobility are nearly going the opposite way. Bell recently partnered with U.S.-based Virgin Group to offer mobile services in Canada, but according to Jopling, the telco has all but given away its youth market to Virgin in the process.

In addition to the Nextel partnership, Telus, along with Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM) launched two new BlackBerry handhelds, the 7510 and the 7750.

The BlackBerry 7510 offers support for Mike’s Direct Connect functionality via speakerphone, e-mail, phone, personal organizer and Web capabilities. The BlackBerry 7750 is a Java-based device that offers PCS phone, e-mail, text messaging, Web browser and organizer functions. The 7750 also features a colour screen and operates on Telus’ 1X wireless data network.

“When you put both announcements together, the more you can offer the business person, the easier it is to communicate anywhere and any time, the more you gain marketshare,” Jopling said.

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