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RealNetworks blasts video to AT&T handsets

The streaming media company announces a deal to deliver digital video--of news, market reports, entertainment and other content--to AT&T Wireless cell phones.

RealNetworks announced a deal Thursday to provide AT&T Wireless with technology to stream digital video to cell phones.

As reported earlier, the Seattle-based digital media services company said it will provide the infrastructure to deliver streaming video to AT&T Wireless cellular service subscribers in the United States.

"RealOne for mMode not only gives AT&T Wireless customers advanced streaming video experience, it also gives customers a great way to catch the latest news, entertainment and sports, regardless of where they are and when they want," Sam Hall, vice president of mMode services at AT&T Wireless, said in a statement.

AT&T Wireless has more than 22 million U.S. cell phone subscribers, making it a prime company to offer new streaming video and audio services in the wireless market. It is developing a next-generation cell phone network in the United States with the backing of Japan's NTT DoCoMo, which holds a 17 percent stake in the carrier. In Japan, DoCoMo is considered a pioneer in delivering streaming video and audio to wireless service customers.

The new service, which provides full-motion video and audio, is now available on mMode-enabled Nokia 3650 handsets and the Nokia N-Gage, RealNetworks said. The service costs $4.95 per month plus usage fees.

The deal gives RealNetworks another large partner in the mobile market. In October, it teamed with Motorola, which is building the RealOne Player into certain handsets scheduled for release early next year.

In addition, RealNetworks introduced a streaming media subscription package in August for Sprint's 2.1 million PCS users and was chosen by Vodafone Group this summer to deliver audio and video on its mobile phones. Nokia has also expanded its agreement with RealNetworks for next-generation cell phones.

RealNetworks has the wireless market as a key area for growth. The market is important, because the company can reach a new set of subscribers for its RealOne audio-video entertainment service and can sell the back-end infrastructure to deliver that service. It is especially crucial for system sales, because RealNetworks has seen its share of the market for PC-based technology dwindle, a result of Microsoft's ability to promote its Windows Media through its operating system dominance.

Wireless technology is becoming more important for companies like RealNetworks, especially as many wired phone lines are being disconnected in favor of cell phones, said Richard Doherty, president of The Envisioneering Group, an Internet research firm.

However, video services demand more wireless bandwidth than cell phone carriers have been able to deliver. But AT&T recently flipped the switch on a new wireless Internet network it claims is the fastest in the United States. It did this by using a cell phone standard called EDGE, or Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution.