From the September 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery-and the clearest validation of a business idea. Nextel Communications' Direct Connect walkie-talkie service is doing so well that larger carriers want a piece of the premium-subscriber pie. Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless are anxious to let everyone know they'll offer push-button phoning sometime this year, although they're hazy on the details. All carriers plan to have it by 2004.


Men use their cell phones
14%
more than women do.
SOURCE: Cingular Wireless

Meanwhile, Nextel's Direct Connect recently went nationwide, enabling a subscriber in Hawaii to push a button and hook up with a buddy in Maine. Originally limited to a caller's hometown, coverage has been gradually expanded with the strengthening of Motorola's iDEN network.

Sprint and Verizon say they'll have coast-to-coast walkie-talkie service at launch but can't point to field trials. AT&T Wireless, which plans a handset agnostic version of the service next year, starts testing in December. With established demand for it, you can expect some level of push-to-talk service from every provider next year. A voice version of instant messaging, it apparently speaks to our need for instant communication gratification. Long term, most providers envision walkie-talkie service going global.