Verizon Wireless on Thursday launched a broadcast TV service for cell phones in about 20 Midwestern and Western markets, charging $15 to $25 a month for the initial lineup from eight leading networks.
While Verizon had already said it planned to introduce the service this month, the launch provided this country's first detailed glimpse of the features and pricing for a long-awaited next wave in cellular technology.
Notably, the launch came one day after a demonstration in New York of a planned rival broadcast service called Modeo, as well as an announcement by MobiTV, a forerunner to these new offerings, that it has reached 2 million users.
V Cast Mobile TV, delivered over a separate wireless network operated by Qualcomm Inc., requires a new handset capable of receiving the broadcast signal in addition to the regular cellular signal for phone calls and mobile Internet access.
The eight 24-hour channels are CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go and Nickelodeon.
While most of the programming will be identical to that shown by those networks on regular TV, only some shows will be broadcast at the same time.
For example: the MTV broadcast will be identical around the clock; CBS Mobile will show some daytime soap operas at different hours, but feature simultaneous showings of the "CBS Evening News," "Survivor" and the "Late Show With David Letterman"; On Comedy Central, "The Daily Show" and the "The Colbert Report" will be shown at their normal hour, but "South Park," "Reno 911," and "Chappelle's Show" will be time-shifted.
Verizon Wireless, owned jointly by Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, is offering the broadcast TV lineup either as a standalone product for $15 a month, or bundled for $25 a month with the company's mobile Web access and the wide-ranging library of V Cast video clip downloads.
The first dual-mode handset from Samsung Electronics Co. costs $200 without signing a new Verizon service contract, or $50 less with a new commitment. Verizon Wireless expects to introduce a second handset made by LG Electronics Co. in the coming weeks.
The biggest markets for the initial launch of V Cast Mobile TV signal are Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Seattle.
The service is also available in Portland, Ore., Tuscon, Ariz., Omaha and Lincoln in Nebraska, the Albuquerque-Santa Fe region of New Mexico; Palm Springs, Calif., Colorado Springs, Colo., Jacksonville, Fla., Wichita, Kan., the Norfolk-Richmond region of Virginia, and Spokane, Wash.
In addition to Verizon, Qualcomm has signed on AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless to offer the MediaFlo TV service, though that launch isn't expected until late this year.
Modeo, which is being developed by cellular tower operator Crown Castle International Corp., is running a trial of its service in the New York City area with six TV channels, but has yet to announce any wireless providers to carry its service.
At the presentation Wednesday night, Modeo stressed that the potential market for mobile TV included laptops and other portable devices, and that the venture was forging ahead regardless of MediaFlo's win with the two biggest U.S. carriers.