Alltel Offers Voice-Mail-To-Text Feature

December 18, 2007 0

“Alltel Wireless announced in September that it had reached a deal with SpinVox to provide the voice-to-SMS conversion capability…”

Wireless carrier Alltel on Monday has rolled out a system it calls “Voice2TXT,” an optional feature that customers can use to have their voice mail messages converted to text and sent to their phones via SMS.

Alltel Wireless has teamed up with SpinVox to launch a new service, Voice2TXT that converts voice mail messages to text messages.

The SpinVox service rolled out across Canada last week by Rogers Wireless and Cincinnati Bell began offering the service to its postpaid wireless subscribers earlier this year.

Called Voice2TXT, the Alltel service is available on mobile phones with SMS text messaging capability. Incoming voicemails are immediately converted to text messages giving subscribers the option of viewing the messages without listening to the voice messages.

The launch makes Alltel Wireless the first of the five largest U.S. carriers to offer its customers the ability to receive voice mail message in text form, the company said. Any Alltel Wireless customer with an SMS (short message service)-capable phone can add the Voice2TXT service.

“Our customers will appreciate the fact that they no longer have to wait for the opportune time to listen to a voice mail,” noted Craig Kirkland, director of messaging and voice services for Alltel Wireless.

“It will appeal to a broad customer base, with Voice2TXT, customers have an easier way to manage their voice mails via text messages when they are in a meeting, on the go, or anyplace where they cannot or do not wish to use traditional voice mail -– it is very useful in those settings,” said Wade McGill, Alltel’s senior vice president of product management.

For a $4.99 monthly plan the subscriber will be allowed to have 20 voicemail conversions, with each additional conversion priced at 25 cents. For a $9.99 monthly plan the user gets 50 conversions and for $19.99 a month gets 100 conversions.

Alltel is using technology developed by Britain-based SpinVox. It will work on any Alltel wireless phone that can receive text messages, McGill said.

“It was one of those services that once you get it, you do not want to give it up,” he said, describing the reaction of a test group.

In addition to letting customers store and forward converted voice mails as regular text messages, Voice2TXT still lets customers retrieve the original voice mail for audio playback.

SpinVox connects with the carrier — in this case, Alltel — at the voice mail platform.

“We receive the deposited voice mail as a WAVE file and begin an automated process of running the message through speech recognition filters and processors,” Tony Carter, a spokesperson for SpinVox, said in a statement.

“Should the Voice Message Conversion System encounter a word or phrase that it does not understand or loud ambient noise, it asks a human for help for that portion of the message. In the case of a new word or phrase, the human corrects that portion of the message and adds the new phrase or lexicon to the system so it can be picked up automatically for the future,” he explained.

The SpinVox computer system, called “D2,” converts the majority of English messages automatically, without human assistance.

“The average voice mail deposit is 18 to 22 seconds,” Carter noted. With that length of message, “most conversions are sent to the customer within about three minutes.”

Alltel began offering the service in a soft launch Friday. To access it, customers need to reset their voicemail and greeting. After that, the voicemail text option will be available, McGill said.

SpinVox said its’ Voice Message Conversion System, which converts messages in English, French, Spanish and German, eliminates the need to search for a pen to write down the details of a message or navigate through a voicemail service.

“Voice2TXT as delivered by SpinVox eliminates the frustrations with dialing into voicemail by offering a discreet, efficient alternative,” said Christina Domecq, co-founder and chief executive of SpinVox.

The SpinVox service has been popular in Europe and also in Africa where it was recently introduced by South Africa’s Vodacom.

Alltel is the first among major U.S. wireless carriers to offer such a service. A New York startup, SimulScribe Inc., unveiled a similar service at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

Little Rock-based Alltel has 12 million customers in 35 states. Last month, the company was taken private in a $24.7 billion buyout by two private equity groups.