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Walkie-talkies go international

Nextel expands service to let walkie-talkie users in Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Peru talk to its subscribers in the United States.
/ Source: Reuters

Mobile service provider Nextel Communications Inc. said Tuesday it expanded its service to let walkie-talkie users in Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Peru talk to its subscribers in the United States.

Reston, Virginia-based Nextel said its customers can now just press a button to connect immediately with subscribers of Telus' service in Canada and NII Holdings Inc.'s customers in Latin America. NII clients will be able to connect to Telus customers by the end of the year, it said.

Nextel has used this feature, also known as push-to-talk, to attract business clients as it reduces the few seconds' delay it takes workers in transportation or construction to reach their colleagues on a standard mobile phone call.

Nextel, which was the only provider of a combined walkie-talkie and mobile phone service for years, began beefing up its offer last year amid new competition from bigger U.S. rivals like Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

International competition
Latin American and European companies are also hoping to build a business clientele with push-to-talk style services.

America Movil, Latin America's biggest wireless company, said last week it would offer push-to-talk services in Mexico this year. Nextel, which has begun to link its service with NII Holdings service in Mexico, said it plans to complete the connection with Mexico in the summer.

America Movil, owned by Mexican retail and telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, will look to take the service to the other six Latin American countries it operates in, analysts have said.

The Mexican operation of NII Holdings, which offers mobile services in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Peru under the Nextel brand, said it would provide international links across Mexico by the end of the current quarter. It has been testing the international service in two cities since September.

"We are not worried" about competition, the Mexican unit's vice president of business development, Gustavo Cantu, said when asked about America Movil's plans.

Cantu pointed out that Verizon and Sprint had hardly dented Nextel's market share in the United States because of the quality of their services in comparison with Nextel's offering.

America Movil was not immediately available for comment.