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Bell launches push-to-talk network for construction

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by Daily Commercial News

Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (TSX:BCE) is targeting the construction industry with new push-to-talk (PTT) handsets, including the XP5520 Bolt from Sonim Technologies, which is designed to work after being dropped on concrete from a height of two metres. Bell Mobility claims its PTT network, which works on High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, has more than twice the coverage of Telus Corp.’s (TSX:T) Mike service
Bell launches push-to-talk network for construction

GREG MECKBACH
digital media editor

Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (TSX:BCE) is targeting the construction industry with new push-to-talk (PTT) handsets, one of which is designed to work after being dropped on concrete from a height of two metres.

“We have more than two times the coverage of the current push to talk solution that one of our competitors offers,” said Claire Gillies, Bell’s vice-president of marketing and mobility, referring to the Mike service Telus Corp. (TSX:T) inherited when it acquired Clearnet Communications Corp. in 2000.

The Telus Mobility Mike network features phones manufactured by Motorola Inc., while Bell’s PTT network, which launched April 24, is available on the Sonim Technologies XP5520 Bolt, Research in Motion Inc.’s BlackBerry Curve 9360 and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

The Sonim XP5520 is designed so it can still work after being dropped from a height of two metres onto concrete, submerged in two metres in water and subject to extreme temperatures, dust and contaminants.

“We provide a three-year comprehensive warranty for any accidental damage on the job site,” said Bob Plaschke, president and chief executive officer of San Mateo, California-based Sonim.

“You drop a phone, hit the phone against a wall and it breaks, assuming it’s accidental, we will replace the phone for you.”

Sonim’s rugged performance standards, which are used on all of its handsets, include resistance to vibrations and are designed to be used with large or gloved hands.

The push-to-talk service is only available where Bell has its high-speed packet access (HSPA) network, which is designed to let users download content at average speeds of 3.5 to 8 megabits per second, with a theoretical maximum of up to 21 Mbps.

HSPA is available nearly everywhere in southern Ontario, with some zones not covered in rural areas near Stayner and Owen Sound, for example. Bell has those zones covered with the EVDO network.

(To see a map of Canada with Bell Mobility’s network, colour-coded by technology, see the Bell Canada website) .

But HSPA covers 97 per cent of the Canadian population, Gillies noted, adding the Sonim device was designed with construction workers in mind.

“I saw a dozer run over it six times and they were making phone calls to it between each cycle,” she said.

Bell Mobility PTT service plans start at $30 a month. The XP5520 Bolt costs $399.95 with no term and $99.95 on a three-year contract. Bell Mobility customers who already have a device that works on PTT can get the service for $15 a month.

With the HSPA network, Bell Mobility’s PTT network lets workers use voice and data applications at the same time, Gillies said.

“Imagine somebody at head office who’s doing email but also talking to the guys on the site, versus just a peer voice technology,” she said.

“I think that’s where you get into some really interesting things.”

Companies can configure their PTT service so a talk list is sent to all end users, said Brent Rendflesh, Bell Mobility’s director of national solutions.

“A lot of that onerous administration can (be avoided) in the field and actually happen in the back office,” he said.

Gillies said Bell Mobility will be working with Sonim to add other applications to the service.

Plaschke said one application that could work on the phone is NoteVault, which lets construction professional record verbal notes as they go through sites. They could record changes requests, site violations and safety issues, he said.

Another possible application would use near field communications (NFC) to record entry and exit of workers from sites. This, Plaschke said, could include checklists with questions workers must answer before entering the site.

“Do you have a hardhat? Do you have safety shoes? You answer this on your phone,” he said.

“From a liability perspective, it can bring down the cost of insuring these construction sites.”

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