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What’s the chatter about 10-4, Mike?

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by Daily Commercial News last update:Sep 13, 2006

Wireless communication takes several forms.

Wireless communication takes several forms.

The one we think of most often is the common cell phone. Of course there is the BlackBerry that so many swear by. Then there’s the hot spots in places like airport waiting rooms that enable you to use your laptop to get on the internet. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) often have wireless capability.

All of these things have become common. There is one you don’t hear much about, but which has developed a loyal following within the construction industry.

Meet Mike. Mike is a two-way walkie-talkie radio service offered by Telus, Canada’s other telephone giant. It’s a neat gadget that allows you to tap into a number of industry networks, including a construction network. It also lets you to set up your own networks for what the company calls group calling.

It’s a service that’s been around for about four years now, and it has built up a good-sized following in the construction industry. That’s because it gives users a quick and easy way to get a group together instantly to talk over a problem that may have arisen on the jobsite, to consult with clients, architects, engineers, subs, or anyone else you have in your group.

It’s quicker than organizing a conference call, and Telus will tell you it’s cheaper thanks to by-the-second billing. This service is not aimed at social calls.

It doesn’t require that all group members be in the immediate area. For Mike, the local calling area is the whole province.

The surprising thing to me is that Telus has been allowed to have this segment of the communications market all to itself for so long. It wasn’t until this last spring that Bell jumped in with its 10-4 service, which competes directly with Mike.

There are differences in details, of course, and in the marketing. Both Mike and 10-4 are cell phones as well as walkie-talkies, but the sales pitches are very different. Telus emphasizes the business uses of Mike, selling the service as walkie-talkie radio. Bell emphasizes the cell phone features of its devices and treats the 10-4 walkie-talkie service almost as an add-on.

Bell’s devices offer more of the bells and whistles cell users seem to want, which allows the company to market its 10-4 service to business and non-business users alike. So if you want to play games, or have a personalized ring-tones and things, Bell might be the service you want.

If you are more concerned with quick and easy communication, then perhaps you will want to look at Mike.

Telus has built up a considerable lead in this corner of the communications market, and boasts literally thousands of general and trade contractors, engineers and architects, material suppliers and others on its construction network.

If any of your operations are in the United States, Mike works there, too, with the entire U.S. as a single local calling area. In Canada, local calling areas are province-wide. The local calling area for Bell’s 10-4 service is all of Canada.

A word of caution, though. Neither 10-4 nor Mike is available everywhere. A service map shows that Mike is broadly available in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor of Ontario and Quebec, as well as other large areas across Canada. A map for the 10-4 service is somewhat spottier. If you’re in northern or northwestern Ontario, you could be out of luck with either service.

Both companies maintain websites, with the Telus site more informative than Bell’s. Telus seems to want to give site visitors as much information as possible; Bell seems to want merely to tempt visitors into making a phone call.

You would want to call both companies if you are considering this form of communication, of course. But before you go even that far, point your web browser at these two sites: Telus Mike: www.telusmobility.com/on/mike and Bell: www.bell.ca then type 10-4 into the search box.

Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to editor@dailycommercialnews.com

last update:Sep 13, 2006

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