AOL, AT&T to develop wireless service

Summary:The two will launch a new service offering enhanced accessibility to AOL online services that will be delivered via a fresh generation of mobile telephone handsets.

America Online and AT&T Wireless on Wednesday said that they are teaming up in a marketing deal that includes the development of a new mobile service and matching handset.

The new service, part of a wider effort by the two companies to include enhanced AOL services on AT&T phones, will feature AOL offerings including e-mail, instant messaging and content. Telecommunications carriers in the United States have been on the lookout for new sources of revenue and hope to get cell phone users to go for content such as games, stock quotes and short messages.

The two companies also are broadening their marketing relationship to promote AT&T products and services via AOL Time Warner units including the AOL and CompuServe online services and the Netscape site.

The deal is the latest move by Dulles, Va.-based AOL to expand its year-old "AOL Anywhere" strategy and make its service available to its subscribers, who now number nearly 30 million, on more than just desktop PCs. AOL Anywhere reaches pagers, set-top boxes, phones and personal digital assistants.

Last fall, for instance, AOL launched a wireless arrangement with Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry two-way e-mail pager. But the centerpiece of the deal, the AOL Mobile Communicator, has drawn limited interest from consumers, and an analyst's report earlier this month suggested that a disagreement over costs has put the partnership in jeopardy. RIM has denied any trouble in the relationship.

As part of Wednesday's agreement, AOL and AT&T plan to develop and introduce a mobile service that will feature a customized version of the AOL desktop service. The companies expect the new service and a co-branded handset to be available for purchase in the first half of 2002.

AT&T plans to showcase the new AOL service with a forthcoming network built on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio System) standards.

Topics: AT&T, BlackBerry, Hardware, PCs

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