Nextel, AOL team on mobile messaging

Adding to the company's growing presence in the wireless market, America Online (AOL) said Wednesday that it signed a deal with Reston, Virginia-based Nextel Communications that will allow Nextel subscribers to access AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM) and Web services over their cellular phones.

AOL's agreement with the carrier comes on the heels of a number of similar arrangements AOL has struck with carriers such as AT&T Wireless Services Inc., Sprint PCS Group and VoiceStream Wireless Corp., furthering the company's AOL Anywhere initiative.

Nextel subscribers in the U.S. will be able to send instant messages, and have access to AOL Mail, news, driving directions and entertainment information sent over the carrier's 2.5G always-on packet data network, the companies said. To receive the AOL services, subscribers must have a US$10 a month Nextel Online Plus plan on top of their basic cellular plan, and then pay for the AOL package, whose price has not yet been announced, according to Nextel spokesman Chris Grandis.

The AOL services should be available to Nextel customers within 90 days, according to AOL Anywhere Senior Vice President Lex Felker.

Through its AOL Anywhere strategy, the mammoth Internet and media company has been steadily racking up agreements to catapult its content and services off the desktop and onto mobile devices.

In recent months, the company announced a deal with Nokia Corp. to preinstall the AIM service in new mobile phones, Felker said.

"We've seen usage (on the Nokia phones) skyrocket and it's increasing everyday," he said.

With AIM becoming a powerful presence not just on desktops, where it is responsible for sending 1 billion to 1.5 billion messages a day, according to Felker, but also on wireless devices, some users have begun to wonder if the service will be interoperable with rival messaging applications.

However, Felker said that the wireless AIM service "does not provide for combined communities and we have not taken steps (toward creating interoperability) for a variety of reasons."

Interoperability aside, AOL has plans to splash its instant message and Web services across a number of upcoming wireless devices through licensing agreements and manufacturer deals, Felker said. It seems that if the company gets its way, AOL won't just be anywhere, but everywhere.

AOL is a subsidiary of New York-based AOL Time Warner Inc.