Yahoo Ringing, But Not Sprint

A Yahoo-branded cell phone is on the way, but not on Sprint's network-the typical choice for what are known as mobile virtual network operators.

Internet giant Yahoo Inc.s latest endeavor, a cell phone service, will use the network of Cingular Wireless, a source said Monday.

Its choice of cell phone network operator is a significant one, though to some degree expected.

When well-known brands ranging from "Ma Bell" AT&T to the Virgin retailing empire of Sir Richard Branson wanted to launch a cell phone operation, they would usually deal with Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. cell phone operator. Just last week, a partnership consisting of cable operators Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications chose Sprint for just such a task.

In a way, Sprint Nextel may be suffering from its success in pioneering the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) market. By racking up so many deals, some analysts are worried that its network may not be able to handle more of the MVNO load.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about other MVNO deals.

This stress on the network may have been one reason why Yahoo is instead working with SBC Communications, the traditional telephone company, which is also part-owner of Cingular Wireless, the nations No. 1 cell phone service provider, some have suggested.

The Yahoo cell phone service debuts in a couple of months, according to the source.

A Yahoo spokesman, reached for comment when details of the cell phone service first emerged in Mondays Wall Street Journal, said "Yahoo doesnt comment on future product plans" and wouldnt comment further.

/zimages/3/155372.jpgClick here to read more about Yahoos current cell phone features.

A Sprint spokesman couldnt immediately be reached for comment.

Yahoos cell phone plans emerged alongside new cell phone mapping services from Google Inc. —the search giant emerging as a big threat to Yahoo and other Internet stalwarts. On Monday, a limited number of cell phones were able to use a more advanced version of Googles mapping feature.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.