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4/5/2006
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Disney To Launch Parent-Controlled Phone For The Kids

The Mouse plans to offer in June a nationwide wireless phone service that will enable parents to manage their children's cell phone use.

The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday said it plans to offer in June a nationwide wireless phone service that will enable parents to manage their children's phone use.

Parent-friendly features in Disney Mobile include being able to set spending allowances and track usage for voice minutes, text messaging, picture messaging and downloadable content, company officials said at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, Nev.

In addition, parents can decide on the hours of the day and days of the week kids can use their phones, program restricted and always-on phone numbers, prioritize family messages and locate kids' phones through their global positioning systems. The controls will be accessible via the Disney Mobile website.

Disney Mobile is the company's second entry in the wireless market as a niche carrier, called a mobile virtual network operator in the industry. The company, which leases cellular spectrum from Sprint, launched Mobile ESPN in February for sports fans.

Content providers such as Disney have a chance among the major carriers because of the popularity of their brands, which they can use to attract customers, experts say. However, in the case of ESPN, the service is not cheap. Voice and data service plans start at $65 a month for 450 voice minutes, plus the cost of the phone.

In the Disney Mobile offering, the kids can get a phone that includes a camera, text and picture messaging, popular ring tones and entertainment content.

"We have addressed what parents are looking for in a comprehensive mobile service, while also balancing the needs of what kids want in a cell phone," Steve Wadsworth, president of Walt Disney Internet Group, said in a statement.

The service is expected to be available through the Disney Mobile Web site and at kiosks in malls throughout the United States. Pricing hasn't been announced, but the handsets are expected to start at $60 with a two-year service agreement.

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