Sprint to offer video, 3D games for cell phones

Downloadable video clips from CNN and others are next on the carrier's agenda, CEO Gary Forsee says, as Sprint looks to sell data services to make up for the plunging cost of voice calls.

Ben Charny
Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
3 min read
LAS VEGAS--Sprint will sell downloadable videos and 3D games later this year, as the carrier hunts for the right combination of data-oriented services to entice subscribers into making more than just telephone calls, CEO Gary Forsee said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show here.

Later this year, Forsee said, Sprint will introduce a video download service with clips from CNN and others. The carrier is working with handset maker Samsung and media player provider RealNetworks, Forsee added. Cell phone service provider AT&T Wireless also plans to introduce

In the next few months, Sprint will also become one of the first U.S. carriers to introduce 3D cell phone games, Forsee said. The advance is possible because of improvements in the Java download technology many carriers use to sell things like games, ring tones and screensavers.

Most U.S. cell phone service providers have been selling nonvoice services that range from simple tasks such as text messaging to MobiTV, a $10 a month service that beams MSNBC, CNBC, Discovery Channel and the California Music Channel to Sprint PCS subscribers. Such services are meant to make up for dipping revenue from the sale of voice calls, whose price per minute continues to drop because of competition.

While it's been slow going for years, recent data suggests that U.S. subscribers are beginning in significant numbers to buy 99-cent ring tones, send 10-cent wireless photo messages and other data-oriented offerings, just as carriers hoped they would.

On Friday, Forsee said the popularity of phones combining the features of a camera and cell phone is the latest example of this growing yearning for wireless data. There have been 60 million camera phones sold in the United States since last year, compared with the 30 million DVD players sold in the last three years, he said.

"The camera phone has set a new adoption-rate benchmark," Forsee said.

Other carriers are also reporting successes with their data services.

Cingular is coming off one of its best ever financial quarters for wireless data, with data revenue increasing 104 percent, 300 million short text messages a month being sent, and one in three of its 22.6 million subscribers now equipped with the carrier's fastest Internet-ready phones.

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cell phone service provider, says 2 percent of its revenue comes from data usage. Each month, subscribers send 400 million text messages, 4 million software downloads and 2 million picture messages, according to its latest Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Nearly 5 million AT&T Wireless subscribers spend more than $3.50 a month extra on text messaging, and 40 percent of the company's new GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) customers are paying an average of $7 to $8 a month on its mMode wireless data service, a company representative said.

Sprint's Forsee said that also "around the corner" for his company are the carrier's first location-based services, which use a cell phone's unique ability to report its geographic location and voice activated text messaging, which "enables you to drive applications by the sound of your voice."