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Mickey Mouse goes wireless

Walt Disney and Sprint have teamed up to launch Disney Mobile next year. Families are the target market.

Walt Disney and Sprint on Wednesday announced plans to launch a new wireless service, Disney Mobile, next year.

The service will use Sprint's nationwide PCS network and is targeted at families, the companies said. It would include wireless voice service, handsets and entertainment content.

Disney will handle product development, distribution, marketing, customer relations and billing. Under its mobile virtual network operator strategy, Sprint is working with different national brands to expand its reach beyond its traditional customer base, it said. Disney's content and applications could help it drive demand for data services.

The deal follows a similar alliance announced by the two companies last year. Sprint and Disney are working on a phone service for sports fans using content from Disney's sports channel, ESPN. Disney already offers its branded content such as graphics, ring tones and games on NTT DoCoMo in Japan.

"This enhanced mobile service offering will ensure Disney's place as a leader in the family mobile market, one of the fastest-growing segments of the mobile industry," Steve Wadsworth, president of Walt Disney Internet Group, said in a statement. "We'll be in investment mode for the next several years, but expect that over the long run this initiative will generate solid financial returns for the company."

George Grobar, formerly vice president and general manager of Disney Auctions, will serve as senior vice president and general manager of Disney Mobile, the company said.