Telecom's new instant messaging platform was built in-house and is the beginning of a ubiquitous messaging platform that should reach beyond the 027 phone range to other mobile phones and to the desktop, says the man responsible for its launch, Telecom's GM product and content sourcing group Ralph Brayham.
The new service, which is available immediately on Telecom's Mobile JetStream network, is initially only available for calls to and from 027-prefixed phones.
"It's an extension of our ISP email services. We wanted an interface that the users already know and that's XtraMail."
Brayham, who heads the team which developed the product in house, says Telecom isn't using Microsoft's MSN Messenger platform despite the close working relationship with Microsoft.
"There is no web-based IM product in the region at the moment. Microsoft doesn't have that capability here yet."
Eventually, however, Brayham hopes the mobile IM platform will be "available on any device, anywhere" although he concedes that isn't something Telecom can do alone.
"We have a strong relationship with Microsoft so we'll of course be taking advantage of that at a later date."
Instant Messaging has been the overnight success of the communication world with a number of different platforms available, include Microsoft's MSN Messenger, AOL's competing Messenger and ICQ platforms and several others. Business users are already making great use of the IM services - US based Ferris Research predicts IM use to hit 23 million users by the end of this year, up from 10 million at the end of 2002. By 2007, an estimated 182 million IM users are expected in the business world alone.
Brayham says IM offers a far richer experience than simple SMS messaging, although that will remain on Telecom's service schedule.
"IM doesn't replace SMS - it compliments it. You won't always want to use the full IM functionality but it's there when you do."
The costs for sending an IM message are the same as for SMS - 20 cents per message - however users have the advantage of "buddy" lists of contacts and their online status, the ability to chat with more than one recipient at a time and the ability to view message history without having to leave the message environment.