AT&T touts mobile video, music capabilities

Converged services will include e-mail and even banking, says COO, who also notes substantial demand for upcoming iPhone.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor
ORLANDO, Fla.--The networks are built, the devices are being sold, and services are now available to make watching TV or listening to music on a cell phone a reality, a top executive from AT&T said on Tuesday during a keynote speech here at the CTIA Wireless trade show.

One sign that consumers are ready for this convergence is all the hype and excitement surrounding the launch of Apple's new music-playing, feature-packed iPhone, set to launch in June exclusively on AT&T's network. In fact, AT&T has already received about 1 million requests for information on the iPhone, the company's chief operating officer, Randall Stephenson, said during his speech.

While AT&T, the biggest U.S. wireless service, is not taking advance orders for the phone, it set up a section on its Web site inviting visitors to leave their e-mail addresses so they can receive information about the phone when it is released.

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"One million people have asked us to call when this phone is available," he said.

AT&T has a strong wireline business, providing voice and high-speed Internet service to millions of consumers. And now, thanks to its $86 billion merger with BellSouth, it also has 100 percent control of the nation's largest wireless operator.

The new AT&T plans to make its mobile asset a key part of a new "three screen" strategy that will allow people to access, TV, music, e-mail and any other data they want on any device they want, whether it's a PC, TV or wireless device. And the iPhone is just one piece of that strategy.

The company is also working on other innovative devices and services, including a video phone service that allows people to transmit live video to someone miles away.

AT&T announced the real-time video-sharing service at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and Stephenson said the company will launch the service in 50 markets this summer. Pricing information and specific locations for the launch have not yet been announced.

AT&T also announced a deal with Napster on Monday that, starting April 1, will allow subscribers to get unlimited access for one year to more than 3 million songs through the Napster music service. Customers will be able to transfer songs to compatible wireless phones and music devices.

In addition to bringing music to cell phones, AT&T plans to bring its TV and broadband Internet services onto the tiny screen as well. AT&T will be highlighting this new strategy as it broadcasts the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., on all three screens for the first time. From April 2-8, the company will offer video previews, highlights and other coverage of the Masters Tournament through its IPTV U-Verse and Homezone services, as well as through its Internet portals and on mobile phones.

Stephenson said AT&T also provides free banking software that will allow subscribers to pay bills and transfer funds via their cell phones. The service will be available to customers of BancorpSouth, Wachovia, SunTrust Banks, and Regions Financial.

"Will consumers want to watch TV on their cell phones?" he said. "Quite honestly, I don't know. But history has shown us time after time that we have underestimated demand for new technologies. So I'm sure we are probably underestimating how much wireless broadband will be utilized."

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