• instant one-to-one and one-to-group calling as well as “silent” mode
• “availability” icon so customers know who is available to use Talk Now™
• first Talk Now™ Handset vendors: Alcatel, LG, Nokia, PalmOne and Sagem
• nine months of trials with companies across Europe
Over the last nine months, Orange has engaged in customer trials across Europe to develop and refine the commercial Talk Now™ service, giving customers a new instant way of communicating alongside their existing voice and messaging services. It enables easy-to-access instant one-to-one and group calling with the added benefit of a real-time availability icon, so customers can see who is available to talk, and who is not. Customers can also create “team lists” that can be used to facilitate instant conference calling with up to 10 participants at any one time. Talk Now™ can also be switched to silent mode to ensure that people in the vicinity are not disturbed. It is available today from Orange Business Solutions in the UK, and will be available later in the year for UK small business and personal customers.
Orange UK will initially be offering a promotional Talk Now™ tariff, allowing corporate customers to make group calls for the price of a standard voice call. Following this, Talk Now™ customers will have the option of choosing either a bundle or a pay-as-you-consume tariff. Full commercial tariff details will be available once the promotional period has ended.
As well as the UK, Talk Now™ is due to be launched this year by Orange in France, then in Switzerland, the Caribbean, Romania, Slovakia, The Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Belgium (Mobistar) and Jordan (Mobilecom) during the following months.
Orange named Alcatel, LG, Nokia, PalmOne and Sagem, as the first manufacturers in its Talk Now™ pan-European handset catalogue. The service will have a common user interface regardless of the handset. In the UK, the service will initially be available on the Treo 600.
Abraham Joseph, CEO of analyst house Inteligentis, said: “We believe that Push- to-Talk will prove successful in Europe. It has immediate appeal to various segments of the enterprise market and will have a broad appeal in the consumer market – not just the youth segment. We believe it will thrive in environments where quick, accurate capture of complex or rapidly changing information is needed.
He added: “The Orange solution is based on a high-end system. Despite debates over standardisation and the merits of different systems, we believe that the implementations that survive and prosper will be those that deliver superior user experiences at acceptable costs.”
Orange has undertaken nine months of extensive trials in the UK and France to develop Talk Now™. In the UK, corporate customers including NHS Lothian have conducted trials of the service and are in discussions with Orange regarding potential contracts for Talk Now™.
Alan Hush, Director of Telecommunications for NHS Lothian, said: "Talk Now™ has allowed our staff to keep in touch while on the move. It builds on the average mobile experience because it enables you to contact a group of people at any one time. We've found it extremely beneficial for mass communication to the mobile workforce."
More than 400 French business users have also conducted trials of Talk Now™. Over half of the businesses surveyed believed that their company would decide to subscribe to the Talk Now™ service. The features of the service that they found most beneficial included the ability to make group calls, the flexibility to change buddy lists, the speed and efficiency of communication, and voice call quality. The most requested features that business users asked for that were not included in the trial were a dedicated Talk Now™ “push” button and a wider choice of devices. Orange is answering both needs in its 2004/2005 Talk Now™ product range.
Orange France also conducted trials with over 300 consumers aged 34 years and under. The triallists were selected in community groups to demonstrate the benefit of the service as an instant group communication tool. Two-thirds of the triallists said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service, with 58% declaring that they would change their handset in order to use the Talk Now™ service. Three-quarters of them said they would use the service for “fun”, with 67% citing Talk Now™ as a “practical” tool.
Specific details about the Talk Now™ offer in France and other Orange markets will be available on launch in each country.
Bernard Ghillebaert, Executive Vice-President of Marketing, Products and Technology for the Orange Group, said: “Once again, Orange is providing its customers with a unique service to improve their effectiveness in business. Talk Now™ gives them the opportunity to get a head-start on the competition, offering them a unique, compelling and powerful way of communicating.”
“Selected businesses across Europe have already begun to see the benefit of Talk Now™. It is providing them with an immediate and reliable way to better manage their teams and address their need to share time-critical information quickly and efficiently. It also offers consumers an ideal way to keep in touch with friends and family by making it easy for them to communicate instantly as a group – all at the touch of a button.”
He added: “The launch of Talk Now™ is yet another example of Orange pioneering a service that customers will soon come to expect as standard.”