Optical/IP Networks

Screen-Sized Idea

5:55 PM -- On the heels of this week's Big News in the telecom world, of the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)/BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) merger (which, by the way, could face more resistance from regulators than many press accounts are figuring on), comes the less earth-shaking news today that Cingular Wireless has launched its new video service. Offering clips from the Cartoon Network, Fox TV, HBO, and other providers. Plus the obligatory news, weather, and sports, this service will cost $20 a month plus extra for premium content.

This would seem to be in line with the prevalent notion that Cingular, the nation's largest wireless carrier, will offer powerful revenue drivers to its unified corporate boss (Cingular is currently co-owned by AT&T and BellSouth). And, certainly, the ability to stream video to your cellphone is one outcome of the billions invested in 3G wireless networks over the last few years.

But is it just me, or does it seem that ventures like this are small potatoes in the larger scheme of things?

No, it's not just me: "It's unclear, however, whether U.S. consumers will take to watching video on the small screens of their mobile phones," writes TechWeb reporter Antone Gonsalves.

I'll say. I find it frustrating, not to say incomprehensible, that carriers seem so focused on gee-whiz products like cartoons on the small screen when (as commentator Paul Callahan put it today) just the "simple and annoying concept" of "build[ing] a wireless network in the US that actually works" is yet to be completed.

-- Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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