Amp’d Mobile Puts Content First

When Amp’d Mobile officially launched this month, it became the first cellular service to make content rather than communications its central calling, offering a slew of TV, music and games.

It might also provide a valuable test of just how much content consumers want to see flowing across their cellular handsets.

Amp’d is part of a new cellular breed called mobile virtual network operators — services that don’t own their own networks but rather strike deals to buy capacity on other carriers’ networks. It is the first to piggyback on Verizon Wireless’s high-speed Evolution-Data Optimized network, providing its own lineup of phones, content, billing and customer care.

What further sets Amp’d apart from established youth-oriented MVNO players Virgin Wireless and Boost Mobile is the content focus. Powered by the EV-DO connection, the Amp’d Live content portal already has a substantial lineup of streaming and downloadable games, video, music from major cable and broadcast networks, movie studios and several youth-media outlets.

Amp’d enhanced the lineup last week in a deal with Electronic Arts to add game titles.

Voice service takes a back seat — and a different path, across Verizon Wireless’ older, parallel 1XRTT voice network.

“We’re a mobile media portal,” said Amp’d CEO Peter Adderton, who also launched now-rival Boost Mobile operated by Sprint Nextel. “We don’t really focus on voice as much. I think voice is becoming more and more of a commodity, so what we want to do moving forward is create the Amp’d Live mobile media portal, which really allows you to just break open whole ranges of content you couldn’t do before.”

Adderton also said Amp’d has already gathered a healthy customer base since a soft launch on Dec. 15. “It’s going great guns,” he said, without releasing figures. “Amp’d Live is starting to drive some very serious revenue.”

Questions remain as to what degree people will want to listen and watch multimedia content on their cellular phones.

“They are doing it in Korea and Japan, but Korea and Japan are totally different markets to the U.S,” Adderton acknowledged. “I have no doubt that people will want to do it — absolutely no doubt. The question becomes when, and how fast, and I think companies like ours will try to push that envelope to try to bring that timeline in a lot sooner.”