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AT&T Tunes Into Mobile TV

Ray Le Maistre
3/28/2008

Some folk call it a "spoiler" -- we call it good ol' fashioned fun.

Only hours after AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) announced the impending launch of its mobile TV service, major rival Verizon Wireless reminded the market that its TV-to-the-handset service, V CAST Mobile TV, hit the market a year ago.

AT&T's offering -- called AT&T Mobile TV, to avoid any confusion -- is being launched in May in partnership with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) subsidiary MediaFLO USA Inc. , and will be available on two new handsets, one each from LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Samsung Corp. (See AT&T Launches Mobile TV.)

MediaFLO USA, chosen by AT&T as its partner early last year, is providing the service's content (news, comedy, sports, kids TV, and so on) via its FLO TV operation, which also provides TV content to Verizon Wireless. (See AT&T Picks MediaFlo, Cos Team for College Bowl, and VZ Unveils TV Lineup .)

AT&T, which has more than 70 million cellphone customers, also said its Mobile TV service, which had originally been expected to launch before the end of 2007, will "feature two exclusive channels, which will be announced soon." More details about the service are expected to be revealed at next week's CTIA show in Las Vegas.

Not to be outdone, Verizon Wireless, which has more than 65 million customers, announced it is adding two new exclusive channels to V CAST Mobile TV -- ESPN Radio (sports) and the bilingual music channel MTV Tr3s, which Verizon says was chosen because of its "popularity among bicultural U.S. Latinos." (See Verizon Touts Mobile TV.)

Verizon also noted that the V CAST Mobile TV service is now available in 50 U.S. markets, is supported by four handsets, and costs from $13 per month.

What it didn't talk about, though, is its mobile TV subscriber base, which some estimates suggest might still be some way below the 100,000 mark. [Ed. note: And is it truly mobile TV after all?]

And despite all the hype around mobile TV, AT&T shouldn't expect too much of a rush for its new service when it launches, especially with only two devices on offer: Mobile subscribers in North America and Europe have been slow to switch handsets and pay extra to access such services. (See Fuzzy Reception for Mobile TV.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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