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Wireless group aims to jazz up messaging

An industry group releases a set of wireless specifications intended to help create a uniform way for cell phones to exchange text, voice and other types of messages.

An industry group Wednesday released the first set of wireless specifications that will help to create a uniform way for mobile phones to trade text, voice and other types of messages.

If adopted industrywide, designers of the group, Wireless Village, say messages containing movies or pictures could be exchanged between any cell phone on any wireless carrier's network. Only a handful of phone companies offer these services now.

Products based on the specifications should be released sometime in the next eight to 12 months, said Frank Dawson, director of mobile Internet messaging at Nokia. The Finnish phone maker, Ericsson and Motorola are among the 100 companies behind the initiative.

Members of Wireless Village expect to host "testing events" by June, so developers who build devices based on the specifications can test them in a setting different from their own research labs, Dawson said.

Wireless carriers are watching carefully, hoping to find some way to offset the decreased revenue they are suffering as the price of a phone call drops. Most carriers hope to make up the difference, in part, by offering text messaging between cell phones. Carriers charge about $5 extra a month for the service.

Dawson said the Wireless Village specifications allow for a number of different message types, including short messages of up to 160 characters and messages that incorporate movies, pictures and sound recordings.

The specifications also detail ways for a message to travel from a phone network to the Internet and back.