Fast Mobile, the company responsible for Fastxt, today launched its Fastchat push-to-talk service, offering an alternative to today's text messaging services.

Fastchat allows users to record a voice message on their specially adapted handset and then simply push a button to send it. The massage is digitised, sent to a server and routed to the recipient via email. The recipient receives the message almost instantaneously, allowing them to reply the same way and making the process similar to using a walkie-talkie.

Unlike with SMS messages where data, voice and graphics have to be sent separately, push to talk can send one combined message and what's more users are able to see whether the recipient is on or offline, which is not possible with SMS.

The service costs £6.99 per month for unlimited messages — a price that could save heavy-duty texters, who currently pay between 10 and 12 pence per SMS, a fair amount. Fastchat also works out much cheaper than talking on your mobile, especially when it comes to international calls.

No special hardware is needed on operators' networks or on mobiles themselves, although handsets must be compatible. At present Nokia's 7650 and 3650 handsets and Sony Ericsson's P800 are the only suitable models, although more are expected to follow.