- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Cell-phone provider Nextel Communications asked a federal judge yesterday to block advertising by rival Verizon Wireless that claims it offers superior walkie-talkie service on its mobile phones.

National ads being aired by Verizon claim its new service operates on the “best” and “most reliable” wireless network. The ads show frustrated people unsuccessfully trying to use other walkie-talkie phones — presumably Nextel’s, as Nextel is the only other national carrier offering the service.

Nextel says in court papers that its long-established service is better because its entire network is digital, offering walkie-talkie connections in less than one second. Nextel said Verizon’s service can take as much as six seconds to connect.

Verizon introduced the service, marketed as Push to Talk, last month to compete with Nextel’s popular Direct Connect feature.

Compared with a regular two-way cell-phone conversation, these walkie-talkie services enable customers to press a button on their mobile phones and speak with other subscribers to the same wireless service, but without dialing or using up calling-plan minutes.

Nextel has been alone in offering walkie-talkie service for years, using it to build a base of 11 million customers. The service has proven especially popular among mobile business users who need to stay in constant contact with co-workers. As a result, Sprint PCS and AT&T; Wireless are also planning to introduce their own walkie-talkie features soon.

Nextel, based in Reston, asked Manhattan U.S. District Judge Denise Cote to stop the ads immediately. The suit also seeks unspecified damages.

Verizon called the suit an attempt by Nextel to protect a monopoly. “We’ll put our network up against any other, any day,” spokeswoman Nancy Stark said.

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