Verizon Wireless intends to launch a ring tone and game-selling service nationally on June 17, using BREW software from Qualcomm, the company said Wednesday.
"We expect to sell well over one million BREW devices," Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton said.
BREW, or Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, is software from Qualcomm that wireless carriers use to launch new services that let people wirelessly download software such as ring tones or games onto their cell phones. The first features Verizon Wireless plans to make available when it launches the service are cell phone games and ring tones, the company said.
Other carriers, including Sprint PCS and Nextel Communications, are using Sun Microsystems' Java to create download services. Sprint PCS plans to unveil a similar service later this year. Nextel Communications has been selling downloadable games and other types of software since April 2001.
Carriers are trying to find new sources of revenue as competition has driven the price of cell phone calls down to new lows. They are also building cellular networks to keep pace with demand for cell phones. There are about 140 million U.S. cell phone users now.
Carriers hope downloading services will earn them some or all of the cash back. But U.S. cell phone customers have so far shown apathy to do anything other than make calls.
BREW services will be sold in a way U.S. cell phone users aren't accustomed to. Instead of a monthly fee, subscribers will pay for what they download. For example, a Verizon Wireless BREW game will cost 99 cents to download and will be able to be played 10 times before it becomes unusable.
Subscribers will pay a $10 monthly fee to play the game all they want. Similar pricing will be used for other BREW services, a Verizon Wireless representative said.
The two BREW handsets that Verizon Wireless will begin selling June 17 are the color-screen Z-800 from Sharp, costing $400, and the black-and-white screen Kyocera 3035E, going for $49. Verizon Wireless plans to sell five other BREW cell phones, which will be released later this year.