Nextel Communications yesterday announced Group Connect, a flexible new service that will let subscribers talk in groups to as many as 20 other Nextel push-to-talk users nationwide.

Nextel has offered enterprise customers a similar feature in the past, giving as many as 100 subscribers the ability to form talk groups, but the groups had to be preconfigured and all participants had to be in a given region, Nextel spokesman Aaron Radelet said. With Group Connect, participants can be anywhere on Nextel’s nationwide network and no preconfiguration work is necessary, he said.

“With the new service, you’re able to set up talk groups on your handset--on the fly,” Radelet said. “And, you can use that capability nationwide, instead of being confined to just one region.”

Only Nextel customers with a ruggedized Motorola i605 handset--also introduced today--can use the Group Connect feature. The Bluetooth-enabled can store as many as 25 talk groups.

Radelet said other Group Connect-enabled phones will be announced in the near future.