Operator Orange is to enable thousands of Paris Olympics 2024 staff to talk to one another via a Push-To-Talk (PTT) service, effectively turning mobile phones into enhanced walkie-talkies with messaging and video capabilities.

In a media briefing today (9 July) ahead of the big event which begins on 26 July, the company highlighted how 13,000 smartphones will be supported with the technology that runs over a priority 4G network.

Bertrand Rojat, CTIO at Orange Events and Paris Olympics 2024, noted the PTT service will be prioritised over other voice traffic on the 4G network to ensure reliability.

Rojat said the service will be used by “event volunteers, the Olympic committee, security services, athlete teams, health and safety; many people that are behind the scenes”.

Details were not revealed on who exactly Orange is working with to ensure the prioritised 4G voice network service is up to the task in hand, but Rojat said this is the first Olympics event where a PTT service has run over an operator’s existing mobile network. Previous PTT services have relied on TETRA networks (a global narrow band standard for mission critical communications defined by ETSI), for example.

The concept of PTT is not new, operators launched PTT services more than 20 years ago (former US operator Nextel had a large customer base for its PTT service using Motorola’s iDEN network technology), while earlier this year T-Mobile US teamed with Motorola Solutions to roll out a PTT service targeted at first responders, government agencies and businesses.

Orange also launched a PTT service in Europe 20 years ago called Talk Now, which allowed people within a group to use their mobile phones as a walkie-talkie by simply pushing a button to talk to others registered within a group.

The operator’s Paris Olympics 2024 PTT service was just one of the tech offerings showcased in today’s media briefing. As previously reported, the company is the exclusive official connectivity provider for the huge event, and is deploying a standalone private 5G network which broadcasters will be able to access in key venues during the games.

Around 1,000 Orange staff are involved in preparing for the event, including programme managers and technicians.