AT&T Forges Ties With Content Providers

AT&T joins movement among wireless carriers boosting collaboration with content developers, handset makers.

CANNES, France—As operating system vendors vie for position in the wireless industry by promoting closer partnerships with carriers on data services, the carriers are seeking closer collaboration with handset makers and content developers as well.

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. is forging closer ties with content providers, offering more flexible revenue-sharing plans, said Jim Grams, chief technology officer and senior vice president for Mobile Media Systems at AT&T Wireless. In some cases, the carrier simply will charge for billing services, allowing the content developer to capture the bulk of the revenue, he said.

"Were going to be a little bit more generous with the content players to bring them into this space," Grams said during a keynote address at the 3GSM World Congress here Wednesday.

AT&T Wireless also plans to stimulate mobile data traffic by encouraging Americans to use short messaging regularly, as many Europeans are accustomed to doing, Grams said.

"Emulating the European SMS market is something were directly embarking on," he said. "U.S. consumers are not used to seeing this the way European consumers are."

Contending that data is an increasingly important component of the wireless industry, Grams said AT&T Wireless is committed to stimulating demand for it. "We cant just do it on voice anymore," he said.

However, carriers do not intend to abandon the search for new revenue streams from voice traffic, as the voice side of the business will continue to generate the majority of revenue for the next decade, according to Jean-Francois Pontal, out-going CEO of Orange S.A. Pontal resigned in December, and last week Orange named Solomon Trujillo, former president and CEO of U.S. West, to replace Pontal.

"We are not at the end of the voice story," Pontal said at the 3GSM Congress. "As we progress into the multi-media world, we must make sure that we dont forget the basics," he said, adding that there is room for improvement in simplifying voice services.

On Wednesday, Orange said that it will introduce a new Windows-powered "sound pictures video" handset in April. The companys first SPV, which was targeted at business users, comes with a plug-in soft keyboard and a Bluetooth headset. The new SPV, aimed at the consumer market, will include a joystick for gaming and accessories such as memory cards and a camera link cable.