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Optus converges with Ninemsn

Customers of telecommunications provider Optus will receive exclusive content and services from Web portal Ninemsn under a wide-ranging alliance announced this morning.The deal will introduce a level of integration between mobile phone and broadband services previously untapped in Australia, executives from the two companies said.

Customers of telecommunications provider Optus will receive exclusive content and services from Web portal Ninemsn under a wide-ranging alliance announced this morning.

The deal will introduce a level of integration between mobile phone and broadband services previously untapped in Australia, executives from the two companies said.

For example, Optus 3G (third generation) users will be able to run a MSN Messenger client on their mobile phones, and use a single address book to synchronise contacts between their computer and handset.

Content drawn from Ninemsn part-owner Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) such as Logies red carpet interviews and material from the Australian Consolidated Press -- publisher of popular magazines Ralph, Cleo, and Australian Women's Weekly -- will be delivered to mobiles and also through an "enhanced" Web browser.

In addition, the alliance will pave the way for the future provision of voice and video phone calls direct to consumers' PCs and over the Internet.

Martin Hoffman, CEO of Ninemsn -- a joint venture between Microsoft and PBL -- said customers will be able to customise a new co-branded Optus/Ninemsn homepage to include content delivered by the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) format, which is gaining mainstream acceptance due its extensive use by bloggers and news portals.

Another upcoming service will be the ability to easily transfer content from a mobile phone to a family photo album stored online.

The additional content and services -- based on usage or subscription -- will be listed on customers' Optus bills, said the company's chief executive Paul O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan said the alliance was the result of a 12-month search his company conducted for a global content partner. Ultimately, he said, Optus planned to offer subscribers a "seamless network for accessing content and applications".

Meanwhile, PBL executive chairman and Ninemsn board member James Packer avoided questions on how his company would make money from the venture; instead, choosing to highlight its strategic implications.

"For the first time in Australia, a major telecommunications company will work closely with a leading online media portal," Packer said. "Audiences want to be able to access content in multiple mediums."

Ninemsn's Hoffman said while his company would still work with other carriers, it would ensure consumers obtained the best online experience when using an Optus broadband or 3G mobile phone connection. Confirming the unique relationship, Packer said: "Ninemsn will not be engaging with any other telecommunications companies with the depth Optus has."

The co-branded page, MSN Messenger integration and enhanced Web browser are expected to be launched by the end of this year.