Push to Talk over Cellular, also known as PoC, PTToC, Wide Area Radio and PNR (Public National Radio), is available as: Hardware based and Software or ‘app’ based.
Let’s compare the two.
Hardware based PoC (e.g. IPTT CP300)
Hardware based PoC devices are bespoke, single use devices made specifically for PoC. They are made with the devices main application in mind; robust, simple wide area PTT communication. This means that the PoC hardware devices share many aesthetics with other PTT devices, like two-way radios. PoC devices are used both outdoors and indoors so need to be robust and rugged. They also require large long life li-ion battery packs to offer the user maximum standby time, at least enough to cover an 8 hour shift.
The other benefit of a hardware based PoC device is that the user can’t get distracted away from its primary use, all it can do is operate on the PoC system. It can’t have any other apps installed on it that may be abused by the user. The user may not even know the device has a SIM card in it and will treat it like a normal two-way device. Microphones and speakers are made to operate in noisy environments, where smartphones speakers don’t have enough power to drown out a noisy environment. To operate a PoC device the user needs a data plan with a Mobile Network Operator.
Software based PoC (e.g. Android App)
Software based PoC clients tend to be android based and run on a smartphone with dedicated PTT button. Here are a few things to consider about the android based software PoC solutions currently available. Android is linux based, and just like other operating systems Android is open to hackers – it is not unknown for android devices to be compromised by malicious applications or email links. Android devices like to do data-heavy updates which will eat in to your calculated data allowances (unless you’re updating using WiFi). Android smartphones tend to have quieter speakers and poor microphones, so the user will need to spend more money on extra audio accessories. This brings us on to the issue of price. A half decent android smartphone with dedicated PTT button will cost you £300+ per device. You will also need a much higher data sim plan to allow for android updates increasing up the total cost of ownership. With an Android app on a smartphone some devices offer the benefit of being able to make and receive normal telephone calls on the device but then also the downside of the user being able to download extra applications on to the device. To operate an app based Android device the user therefore potentially needs a larger data plan as well as a call plan.
If you are serious about a PoC investment the hardware based solution is by far the best with devices made just for communication using PoC solutions. Dedicated PoC devices are made to last (and are harder to break) when dropped or thrown around and generally last longer on a single charge. Hardware based solutions also allow you to accurately estimate the amount of data each user will need, mitigate risks of hacking and can be used only for the purpose they were intended – professional communication and tracking.