America Online, AT&T Wireless Strike Service, Ad Pact

AT&T Wireless will provide the technology behind a new channel of AOL Time Warner’s convergent media strategy, in return for sizable marketing across the media giant’s properties.

Through terms of Wednesday’s agreement between the two, AT&T Wireless will support a new, co-branded wireless service that will include voice as well as access to the mobile version of the America Online service and AOL’s Instant Messenger. Starting in the first half of 2002, the companies will sell the service online and in AT&T Wireless retail stores, where it will be marketed along with the software for America Online.

In addition, the companies said they’d begin offering a co-branded, custom-designed handset at about the same time.

“Today’s agreement is great news for millions of AOL members and AT&T Wireless customers alike,” said John Zeglis, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Wireless. “Now AOL members join AT&T Wireless customers in being among the first to experience an exciting next generation of wireless capabilities as we lead the industry in deploying a world-standard next generation mobile multimedia network.”

The deal builds on an earlier pact signed in July, which saw the companies putting AOL Mobile on the AT&T Digital PocketNet phone.

Now, in return for providing the carrier technology underlying the new mobile service, Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T Wireless will receive “substantial” billing across the America Online service and corporate parent AOL Time Warner’s offline brands.

The effort will kick off this month with a promotional discount for AOL, CompuServe and Netscape users, offering $50 off on the purchase of specified mobile phones available from AT&T Wireless.

Throughout the rest of the year and through 2002, AT&T wireless will also receive ad space in “several” AOL Time Warner offline properties, though a company spokesperson declined to elaborate. The ads will contain both a continuation of AT&T Wireless’s current advertising (the FCB-designed “Shepard” campaign, which runs in print and television) and new work centered around the new service offering.

AOL, meanwhile, aims to boost its subscriber base and advertising reach through the arrangement, though executives described the deal as a win for consumers because it expands the footprint of the company’s “AOL Anywhere” multi-platform initiative.

“This innovative agreement promises to deliver AOL members the most comprehensive mobile experience in the marketplace,” said Barry Schuler, chairman and CEO of Dulles, Va.-based America Online. “By working with an industry leader like AT&T Wireless, we will continue to extend our ‘AOL Anywhere’ strategy by taking our mobile services to the next level and giving our members the AOL experience they know and trust across one of the most respected names in wireless.”

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