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Indian flick to premiere on cell phones

Airtel, an Indian mobile-services provider, claims release of full-length movie on handsets is the first of its kind. Photo: Bollywood's cell phone premiere

Airtel, India's largest private mobile services provider, will play a full-length movie for its customers--not in a theater, but on their handsets.

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The Hindi film "Rok Sako To Rok Lo" ("Stop Me If You Can") can be viewed by Airtel subscribers in 10 Indian cities, including Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, using their EDGE-enabled handsets on Thursday, a day before the campus caper is released in theaters. EDGE, or Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution, is a third-generation cellular technology that delivers broadband-like data speeds to mobile devices.

"Airtel has become the first cellular service in the world to premiere a full-length movie on mobile," Atul Bindal, Airtel's director for mobility, said in a statement.

To view the movie, subscribers can log on to Airtel's entertainment portal, Airtel Live, from their phones at 3 p.m. Indian Standard Time. Once they click on the movie link, the film will begin playing on their handsets within seconds. Those who do not log on at the scheduled time may miss the movie because it is being streamed live. It cannot be copied or downloaded.

Cell-phone companies have been trying to interest consumers in more sophisticated data services for some time. While U.S. consumers have not been particularly interested, consumers in other countries have been more responsive.

Executives are speculating that cell phones will soon have enough power to make some of the newer service more enticing to consumers. Recently, News Corp. announced plans to air television showsvideo services on special phones.