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Community To Go: Helio, a Joint Venture of EarthLink, South Korean Telecom Firm, Launches

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ATLANTA, GA. — Helio

is determined to be a different kind of wireless phone service, offering a community for its users as well as a wide variety of digital news, information and entertainment.

The mobile phone service targeting young consumers went live on Tuesday.

The new offering is a joint venture of Internet Services Provider EarthLink and SK Telecom of South Korea. Heading up the company is Sky Dayton, the founder of EarthLink, which has its headquarters in Atlanta.

"Helio puts you + your friends (not rates and minutes) at the center of our business, because the most important thing a mobile service can do is better connect you to your friends," the company says on its website.

Helio is hoping to win as customers wireless users who want to use their phones for more than talking or texting. Among its content offerings is MySpace on Helio, an attempt to capitalize on the wildly popular MySpace community site that has some 70 million users.

"Helio is custom-built for the lifestyle of young people who have their mobile device at the center of their universe," Dayton said in a statement. "Mobile devices are with us all the time and they shouldn't be limited to making calls, sending text messages and downloading content. With Helio, mobile is about staying connected in innovative ways where sharing your world includes content like videos and games, or unique personalization that you know your friends will love. These are things that have been happening on the Internet for years, but haven't been taken mobile - until now."

Helio is offering two multimedia mobile devices, each with 2.2' screens, called the Hero and the Kickflip. The devices retail for $275 and $250 respectively.

Calling plans range from $40 a month for 500 any-time minutes and pay-as-you-go multimedia content to $135 a month for 2,500 any-time minutes plus unlimited data and texting. Some content has to be purchased separately.

Helio is not building its own network. Rather, it will utilize network services as provided by other carriers, what the industry calls a "mobile virtual network operator".

MySpace on Helio enables users to post photos, read and write mail, post and reply to bulletins, read and write blogs, and engage in other MySpace features.

The service also features live news feeds on a variety of topics from weather to traffic as part of Helio On Top, or HOT. Content partners include Fandango, Fox Sports, MTV News, MySpace, PopSugar, Surfline, The Onion and Yahoo!

Capitalizing on third-generation or multimedia capability, Helio also supports video and picture as well as text messaging. Helio offers the ability to post as many as three photos per message and broadcast that message to up to five friends simultaneously.

Helio includes a variety of interactive and multiplayer games. Games can be purchased for $5.99 or rented for 99 cents per week.

Helio members can also participate in "gifting" - or buying content and sending it over the network to the recipient - and "begging" - or asking other Helio members to buy content for them.

Helio is partnering with Yahoo! for search capabilities and other features.

EarthLink and SK Telecom announced their partnership in June of last year. Each company has pledged to invest $200 million in the joint venture through 2007.

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