Helio launches, targeting the young tech-savvy
The EarthLink/SK Telecom venture Helio officially launched today, opening its Web portal to orders for its high-dollar technology-focused service.
The third boutique mobile virtual network operator to launch this year, Helio is drilling down to a young tech-savvy demographic, offering the industry’s first mobile access to popular community content portal MySpace and providing a host of new data applications and services previously available only in Korea.
In a recent interview, Helio executive vice president of marketing Stuart Redsun said Helio was created to address the seemingly growing technology lag between North America and East Asia. While SK Telecom and other Korean and Japanese carriers launch innovative new data services, the U.S. has always taken two years, and sometimes longer, to match that innovation, Redsun said. SK, South Korea’s largest carrier, lends its expertise and technology to the MVNO while EarthLink brings its own knowledge of the U.S. content market as well as its own technical savvy.
The service will run over Sprint’s high-speed EV-DO network, and the initial data offerings Helio is touting are not paltry. In addition to on-board rendering of the entire MySpace portal--from individual profiles to music--Helio is launching a content interface that allows live streaming of media such as sports scores, news, MySpace updates and The Onion content directly to the idle screen of the phone. It’s launching a game portal with IGN that goes beyond just a catalog of games to include reviews, cheat codes and customer feedback as well as options to rent games instead of buying them. The virtual carrier is also expanding the boundaries of its messaging services to accommodate the EV-DO capabilities of the network, allowing subscribers to send video messages up to 1 megabyte and send slide shows via MMS.
Another odd but innovative feature is the ability to “beg” for content on the Helio online community. A customer can ask another Helio user to purchase content for him or her, sending the application, video or game directly to beggar’s phone while billing it to the gift-giver’s statement.
The range of services definitely makes the service high-end, and Helio is charging accordingly. Its phones begin at $250, and its cheapest rate plan is $85 a month, but Helio is also taking a unique approach to billing for that content. Instead of taking an a la carte approach to those services, most of Helio's content services are included in the overall bundle--unlimited text, video and picture messaging; unlimited streaming, WAP browsing and data transfer and free access to its boutique services like MySpace.
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