Cingular Launches 3G Handsets — With Mobile TV, Of Course

Cingular has quietly launched its first two 3G handsets, while not so quietly shouting about its new mobile-TV service. Cingular already offers live service from MobiTV over its 2.5G network, but the 3G service will feature short streamed clips from 18 different channels. The service will be free with a $20 per month unlimited data plan, while content from premium channels like HBO will carry an additional monthly fee. Despite uncertain interest, mobile operators are hoping people will shell out for mobile TV. Obviously the selling point of 3G is its higher data speeds, and Cingular is hoping to push data-plan uptake by giving away TV service — a strategy which could be more fruitful than selling it with subscription fees on top of separate data charges. So it’s just a different way of looking at things, perhaps: Cingular’s not selling a $20 per month data plan, but a $20 per month TV service that includes unlimited data. But will people care enough to pay for premium channels on top of that, and then add other monthly services, like the $4 per month social-networking Cingular’s also pushing? To get people to suddenly increase their data spending by $20 or $25 per month is a pretty hefty undertaking.

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