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Cingular Launches Podcast Service

The Mobilcast service lets consumers search and listen to thousands of podcasts by either streaming or downloading the content to a mobile phone.

Cingular Wireless has struck a deal with podcasting service Melodeo Inc. allowing consumers to upload and listen to podcasts on their mobile phone.

The Mobilcast service lets consumers search and listen to thousands of podcasts by either streaming or downloading the content. The announcement made Tuesday at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment conference in Los Angeles.

Through an application download to the phone, consumers can get continuous updates from NPR, CNN, ESPN, as well as thousands of independent news and entertainment sources. The service is available on 15 handsets, with others coming on line soon.

A Web-to-mobile service comes with the Mobilcast subscription, allowing customers to sync podcast playlists between the Melodeo's Web site and the phone through the cellular service. Unlike Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, synchronization occurs without connecting the phone to a PC or docking station.

The client application for the mobile phone combines a browser, catalog and search engine, said Melodeo CEO Jim Billmaier.

"By the beginning of next year, we'll have more than 50 percent of the subscriber base covered with all the carriers we continue to sign up in North America," Billmaier said. "We have a joint venture in China that will launch with the two largest carriers in the world before the end of this year."

Billmaier names the three largest carriers worldwide as China Mobile, China Unicom, and Vodafone Group.

Separately, Melodeo has plans to launch a "white-label Web site" that companies can customize to launch their own podcasting site.

Companies like Podcast Ready have developed software that lets consumers subscribe to podcasts in one click. MP3 manufacturer mobiBLU began shipping the application in its players in May.

All signs point to growth, particularly in the U.S. Research firm eMarketer estimates 10 million U.S. consumers will have downloaded at least one podcast by 2006, compared with 3 million people who will have downloaded on average one or more weekly. That number jumps to 50 million and 15 million, respectively, by 2010.

Maybe so, but Tim Bourquin, CEO at TNC New Media Inc., which hosts the Podcast and Portable Media Expo. doesn't attribute the growth to any one technology, but rather believes it's because people have become more aware. "New technology like podcasting catches on as more people begin to download and experiment," he said.

Podcast services through wireless carriers that make it easy to download content could push podcasting numbers higher. Several carriers already offer Melodeo's mobile phone podcast service for a monthly subscription fee. The company announced an agreement with Alltel Wireless in August and Canadian carrier Rogers Wireless in February. Billmaier said Melodeo plans to make public several deals with international wireless operators within the next 30 days that will extend Mobilcast's reach to more than 75 hmillion customers across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

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