RealTime IT News

Verizon's Video Alert

Mobile carriers Verizon and Cingular unveiled two video services for that the iPod and YouTube crowds might help along.

Despite mobile video having only niche interest, the carriers used the giant Consumer Electronics Show to unveil live video services offering TV as well as video messages.

"Video on phones is problematic," Gartner's Ken Dulaney said, summing up analyst skepticism.

Verizon, however, said its V Cast Mobile TV service would be unlike previous attempts at mobile television in that it will provide live 24-hour programming.

"There are services out there today that call themselves 'mobile TV' but we don't believe they're TV," Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson told internetnews.com.

The service will feature programming from NBC, CBS, Fox, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. With the help of Qualcomm's MediaFlo USA, the service will launch in many major markets during the first quarter of 2007, according to Verizon.

The new service will be accessible on new V CAST Mobile TV handsets via a dedicated V CAST Mobile TV key, said Verizon, adding that users can talk or watch video for three hours before needing to charge the handsets.

The company did not specify pricing, but Yankee Group's Linda Barrabee suggested the service would run between $10 and $20 and added that it needs to be priced right to attract users.

To view live TV, V Cast users will need to buy new handsets. Barrabee said they'll need to buy either the LG VX9400 or Samsung's SCH-u620 handset. But despite these potential barriers, Barabee was impressed. Other analysts weren't, however.

Really watching TV will drain your battery and likely cost a lot of money, Dulaney said. "The carriers are once again focusing on things that aren't all that useful."

Most video is viewed on the PC, not the cell phone, he continued. Instead, Verizon and others should focus on services such as wireless e-mail.

But in three years, said NPD Group analyst Neil Strother, mobile TV will be fairly common and watching TV on a phone could draw the same audience now attracted to iPods.

In related news, Cingular previewed a service allowing 3G subscribers to make live video calls. The service, which won't be ready until later this year, will initially be limited to phone-to-phone video sharing, eventually expanding to the PC, according to a Cingular spokesperson.

Cingular last month inked a deal with social-networking site MySpace allowing cell phone users to edit their profiles or view and post messages.