The social networking site MySpace, hugely successful among teenagers and twenty-somethings, is about to become more ubiquitous with the launch of a cellular service that will let users read and post to the site for free.
The service and two accompanying phones will be launched in a few months by Helio LLC, a joint venture of Internet service provider Earthlink Inc. and South Korean carrier SK Telecom Co.
On MySpace, users keep personal pages with journals, communicate with friends and play games. It's a formula that has attracted more than 54 million users and the attention of media conglomerate News Corp., which bought the site last year for $580 million.
SK Telecom owns the Korean equivalent of MySpace. Called Cyworld, it is hugely popular among young South Koreans and can be accessed from cell phones.
"We're able to leverage a lot of that experience about how to take social networking and put it on a device," said Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink and chief executive of Helio.
"What our target really cares about, this young consumer, is being connected to their friends and being connected to their world," Dayton said, contrasting Helio's idea to that of the major carriers, who are expanding sales of music, videos and games.
Helio's two phones, dubbed "Hero" and "Kickflip" will be based on Korean designs. Made by Pantech and VK Mobile, the phones will feature large color screens and cameras, but no QWERTY keyboards.
An exact launch date was not announced. Nor were prices for the phones and plans, but Dayton said they will not be prepaid. Apart from a monthly fee, access to MySpace will be free.
Helio will be a so-called "mobile virtual network operator," meaning it won't have its own cellular network. Instead, it will buy access to Sprint Nextel Corp.'s and Verizon Wireless' high-speed networks.
Other MVNOs include Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.