Enterprises desiring enhanced push-to-talk dispatch services—particularly critical-infrastructure entities like utilities—soon may have a new technology option with today’s announcement that Pacific DataVision will leverage 900 MHz spectrum to deploy such an offering in major U.S. markets beginning early next year.

Pacific DataVision, a provider of mobile workforce management solutions, raised $218 million in equity to fund the purchase of about 6 MHz (3x3 MHz) of 900 MHz spectrum from Sprint and the deployment of a two-way radio network that will be built using Motorola Solutions’ digital radio technology, according to a Pacific DataVision press release.

Pacific DataVision Vice Chairman Morgan O’Brien, a co-founder of Nextel Communications, said company officials believe push-to-talk functionality that will be offered by Pacific DataVision can address the needs of a specific enterprise market that have gone unmet since Sprint shuttered the former Nextel iDEN network last year.

“Our research indicates that there are push-to-talk-centric customers for whom the ease and functionality of push to talk is more important than anything else,” O’Brien said during an exclusive interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “They’re willing to make the tradeoff of what you don’t get in a push-to-talk radio, just like there are other customers that are not push-to-talk centric for whom telephone interconnect is as important or more important.

“We thought there was this subset in the small- and medium-business market of the kind of customers that we used to provide iDEN to—but not as many. When [Nextel] merged with Sprint, I think we had over 20 million customers. We’re not looking at an addressable market that is that big, but we’re saying that there’s a subset of that market that probably always would prefer—at the right price—the optimum push to talk.”

Many cellular carriers offer a push-to-talk service, but it typically requires a connection to their network and is not optimized for push to talk in the manner that a digital radio network is, according to O’Brien.

“All the push to talk that is provided over commercial wireless are adequate in some circumstances, but they make certain compromises in design,” he said. “Sometimes that shows up in the functionality. We think we can appeal to those customers with our offering—that’s the first thing.

“The second thing, which is almost as important, is that you can’t let as much spectrum as we’re getting from Sprint be underutilized. It isn’t a matter of good public policy under the FCC rules. So we are absolutely committed to utilizing this spectrum to deliver a next-generation dispatch solution.”

With this in mind, Pacific DataVision plans to roll out its first systems in targeted major metropolitan areas “not later than the end of the first quarter of 2015,” O’Brien said.

Although there are some parallels to Nextel in the enterprise market being targeted, Pacific DataVision has no plans to be a full-fledged commercial cellular carrier like Nextel was, O’Brien said. In addition, the technology being used is very different, with the Motorola Solutions’ digital-radio technology being built with a “classic high-site” architecture, as opposed to the low-site iDEN technology that was blamed for interference that ultimately led to 800 MHz rebanding.

“Let’s just put it this way: This is not iDEN,” O’Brien said. “This is nothing like iDEN. This is a radio, not a telephone, and we don’t anticipate having telephone interconnect on our service.  In other words, we’re deploying on this 900 MHz spectrum the way it was originally contemplated to be deployed, which is with high-site [technology].

"On the other hand, this isn't traditional dispatch, either; we'll be offering — as an enhancement to dispatch —mobile resource-management solutions developed over the last decade by Pacific DataVision. We'll also continue to grow and support these solutions through our carrier partners."

Pacific DataVision Chairman Brian McAuley, who co-founded Nextel with O’Brien, said he believes the combination of Pacific DataVision’s solutions with a push-to-talk dispatch service will be appealing to many businesses.

“Morgan and I are proud of the role we played in building Nextel into a carrier focused on the needs of the enterprise community,” McAuley said in a prepared statement. “With the availability of Motorola Solutions’ digital radio technology, we see an opportunity to incorporate [Pacific DataVision’s] proprietary cloud-based mobile resource management solutions into a next-generation offering for businesses. These solutions increase productivity through the delivery of real-time information from and about mobile workers to their managers.”

In addition to looking to Motorola Solution for its digital radio technology, Pacific DataVision also will leverage the vendor giant’s sales channels, with most of its dispatch services being offered primarily through Motorola Solutions’ authorized dealer network.