updated 12/2/2005 7:35:02 PM ET 2005-12-03T00:35:02

Filling a big gap in its product lineup, Cingular Wireless is adding “push-to-talk” service, hoping to make up for lost time with novel features such as icons that show if a contact is available to speak.

The new service, being launched Monday, leaves T-Mobile USA as the only national U.S. cell company without walkie-talkie capabilities, a service first introduced by Nextel that has proven immensely popular with groups of mobile workers as well as friends and family.

Cingular, owned jointly by AT&T Inc. (formerly SBC Communications) and BellSouth Corp., is charging $10 per month for unlimited national usage. A family plan costing $20 a month allows up to five phones to use the new service.

The new service, powered by technology from Kodiak Networks, adds several new bells and whistles to the basic push-to-talk offering.

Group chats, for example, usually require a user to set up the list of participants in advance in their phones. With Cingular’s service, subscribers also scroll through their push-to-talk contacts and click multiple entries on the spot to start a group conversation.

In addition, as with a one-to-one conversation, users also will be able to convert a group conversation, in which only one person at a time can talk, into a full-fledged conference call.

Push-to-talk services require phones with a special walkie-talkie button.

Initially, Cingular’s service will be available on two new handsets, the d357 from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and the F7200 from LG Electronics Inc. Both are being offered with two-for-one deals with a two-year contract: $70 for two LG’s and $100 for two Samsungs.

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