Cingular Wireless Launches Video Service - InformationWeek

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Cingular Wireless Launches Video Service

Cingular Wireless on Tuesday launched a video service that offers clips from the Cartoon Network, Fox TV, HBO, and other entertainment providers, as well as news, weather, and sports.

Cingular Wireless on Tuesday launched a video service that offers clips from the Cartoon Network, Fox TV, HBO and other entertainment providers, as well as news, weather and sports.

Cingular Video is available in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and 13 other cities, and on two handsets, the LG CU320 from LG Electronics Co. and the SGH-ZX10 from Samsung Electronics Co. Nokia Corp. is expected to add a handset in the spring, when LG is set to offer another.

The handsets start at $99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year service plan. The video service requires Cingular's $20 a month Media Net Unlimited data package, and there's an additional charge for premium content. Clips from HBO shows "The Supranos," "Sex And The City," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "Entourage," for example, are available for $4.99 a month.

Cingular Video is similar to Verizon Wireless's VCast, which launched in February 2005 and costs $15 a month. Carriers are offering video as one of a variety of data services that they hope will recoup the billions of dollars spent on building high-speed 3G networks.

It's unclear, however, whether U.S. consumers will take to watching video on the small screens of their mobile phones. Researcher EMarketer forecasts that the number of consumers watching TV programming on cellular phones will rise to 15 million in 2009 from 1.2 million in 2005. Those numbers are small in comparison to the 240 million mobile phone users expected in the U.S. in four years.

In addition, the majority of Americans believe the phone is best used for talk, and fewer than 10 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers have used their phone's browser to get news and information, send a photo, a message or purchase a ring tone, EMarketer said.

Nevertheless, carriers are banking that fans of TV shows will be attracted to video services. Cingular is offering a personalized homepage that subscribers can create with up to three links to their favorite video sites. The service is also pre-set to stream localized weather information to a user's personalized news and weather page each day.

Other content providers on the Cingular service include ABC TV, CNN, Disney Channel and ESPN. CBS Sportsline is scheduled to offer content from March Madness, the NCAA men's basketball championship.

Cingular, a joint venture of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., also offers TV shows on select handsets through a partnership with MobiTV Inc., which also provides TV service to other carriers.

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