Harris Corp. unveils push-to-talk over IP technology

Carriers will provide BeOn as a service

Harris Corp. today announced a radio technology based on voice over IP (VoIP) that can be used globally for instant communications by small or large groups in business, public safety and other organizations.

Called BeOn, the system will offer push-to-talk features similar to Nextel's Direct Connect, but over VoIP instead, said John Vaughan, senior president of global marketing for public safety and professional communications at Harris.

BeOn will be provided by at least two wireless carriers, as yet unnamed, one in the U.S. and another abroad, as a service to customers, Vaughan said in an interview. Pricing will be set later by the carriers.

Vaughan described BeOn as offering communications that are a combination of police two-way radios and cellular push-to-talk phones widely used by delivery and service personnel. BeOn will function over nearly all types of smartphones, but Harris is also developing a ruggedized handset.

No timeline for the release of the services was announced.

The nature of BeOn will allow instant push-to-talk capability matched with protocols known as APCO 25, which is familiar to police communications officers. That protocol allows a dispatcher or an emergency commander on a network to be designated to talk to a large group anywhere. Also, calls could be prioritized so that certain pre-designated individuals (such as a manager or a fire chief) would be able to talk and cancel out others in a process called "ruthless pre-emption."

VoIP calls will also have end-to-end encryption.

BeOn is focused on voice, but because it would work with typical smartphones, data, e-mail, GPS and text transmissions would also be possible. "This the next generation of push-to-talk communications, but broader and deeper," Vaughan said. "It's a more mature offering."

The biggest competitors will be Sprint Nextel Direct Connect and Kodiak Networks, he said.

Harris, based in Melbourne, Fla., has built radio communications technology since the 1950s.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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