Universal Music to launch own handsets

Singletouch Interactive, the US-based MVNE (mobile virtual network enabler), has announced an agreement with Universal Music to provide the media company with customised handsets and a range of content and services. The deal includes handsets branded by Universal as ‘MoveU Mobile’, as well as devices designed to promote individual artists signed to the Universal label. Singletouch claims to have already sold 7,000 handsets branded by Hilary Duff, the US teen singer.

The agreement is significant because it represents one of the first ‘live’ examples of a US media company seeking to directly brand its own range of handsets. Universal has been active for some time in selling mobile content and ringtones to support its artists, but this move will take the company directly into the MVNO space.

Singletouch will also provide pre-paid airtime for the handsets, which it resells on behalf of Sprint PCS.

Universal recently invested in Amp’d Mobile, the US MVNO which plans to offer a range of multimedia content amnd tailored handsets over CDMA 1xEV-DO networks. Amp’d also acquired platform developer Ninja Mobile in recent weeks.

PMN has been predicting for some time that media companies would seek to increase their influence over the mobile value chain as content consumption became a more important part of the user experience. With several of large media companies, including AOL, Amp’d and Google, all announcing mobile acquisitions over the last month, it seems this trend is gathering pace.

It will be a key focus area at MEX, the PMN Mobile User Experience conference, on 6/7th September in London. Day Two features a panel session entitled: “Media opportunities, MVNO partnerships and alternative business models.”

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