SAN MATEO (07/21/2000) - On moves that may determine how thousands of mobile device users receive Web content, AT&T Corp.'s Wireless Services staked out an agreement this week to bring America Online Inc. content to AOL and AT&T customers, while Verizon Corp. launched its Mobile Web service, tapping a variety of Internet content providers to fill out the offering.
The deal between AT&T and AOL brings content from AOL Mobile's suite of services -- including e-mail, news, movie listings, stock quotes, and restaurant reservations -- to AT&T's Digital PocketNet service users. The PocketNet users can access content from about 40 wireless Internet Web sites, AT&T Wireless officials said.
"We are looking to drive subscriber growth in this segment and a property like AOL extends our reach to the marketplace," said Tom Parrish, director of business development at AT&T Wireless Services, in Redmond, Wash. "It's about content and applications. The value [for Wireless Web] has to be more than getting the Internet on the phone. It needs to be more specific, and [with AOL] here is specifically what you can do."
According to one analyst, the partnership is a competitive necessity for both parties.
"Both AT&T and AOL need each other in this relationship," said Eddie Hold, principal analyst at Current Analysis Inc., in Sterling, Va. "AT&T Wireless holds the keys to the wireless world and AOL can't get into it unless it talks with the service providers. From AOL's perspective, they need to get the big partnerships with the big service providers. For AT&T Wireless it's even more important, because without good content no one will use this wireless Web thing," he said.
Hold added that another important element of the deal is that AT&T gains access to a sizable customer base with AOL's 23 million customers.
Also stepping up its wireless Internet presence, Verizon Wireless, recently formed by the GTE Corp.and Bell Atlantic Corp. merger, this week announced its Mobile Web service, which is designed to connect mobile phone users to Internet content. The service allows users to personalize content either from the handset or through a personal home page on a Web site where users can generate text message alerts they want sent to their handset.
The company has forged a slew of agreements with Internet content providers to bring different types of Web site content to Mobile Web subscribers.
Content providers include MSN Mobile, Etrade, ESPN, and ABC News. New deals struck this week include those from Strategy.com, bringing in personalized finance, news, and weather; Go2, providing access location-based information and directions; and Fidelity Investments using wireless trading services.
Here is a partial list of content relationships.
AT&T Wireless -- AOL, ABC News, ESPN, Barnes and Noble LLCSprint PCS -- AOL, CNN, Amazon.com Inc., Yahoo Inc., eBay Inc., Ameritrade Inc.
Verizon Wireless -- MSN Mobile, ESPN, E-trade Group Inc., Go.com