Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphones, reportedly is preparing to announce a new video download service for its BlackBerry phones at the CTIA trade show next week in Las Vegas.
The blog NewTeeVee, which reported the news earlier this week, said that the service will be offered as an unlimited monthly subscription service. And it adds that RIM has already signed several broadcast and cable partners to offer up content. But instead of streaming the video over the 3G wireless network, RIM is planning a service that will allow the videos to be downloaded using Wi-Fi connections, the site reported.
News of the TV service is expected to be announced Wednesday when Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of RIM, is slated to give a keynote address on the opening day of the trade show and conference. The company is also expected to announce the availability of its new application store, called BlackBerry App World.
Representatives declined to comment about the launch of the BlackBerry App World and the new video service.
There are already several services available for watching video on cell phones. Qualcomm's MediaFlo has built its own broadcast network that streams live TV directly to handsets. The service is offered through AT&T and Verizon Wireless, but it requires special handsets. And to date, RIM's BlackBerry phones do not offer this service.
MobiTV also offers a streaming mobile video service. This service provides content from more than 40 channels, including several major networks, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, and Discovery Networks. It also offers made-for-mobile videos and video-on-demand clips to more than 5 million subscribers on over 350 mobile devices. The service, which costs $10 a month, is currently offered on AT&T and Sprint Nextel networks the day after CBS broadcasts them on TV.
But instead of streaming video to handsets, RIM plans to allow users to download entire episodes over a Wi-Fi connection to the devices, the NewTeeVee blog said. Apple also requires videos from its iTunes store to be downloaded instead of streamed. But unlike RIM, which will use a Wi-Fi connection for downloading, iPhone users must download the video via their computers and then sync it to their iPhone.
Because video files are large, it makes sense that RIM would offer the service over Wi-Fi. But it does limit the usefulness of the service. If users can download video over the 3G cellular network, they can access video anywhere. Wi-Fi is limited to smaller hotspots and is not ubiquitous. What's more, not every BlackBerry device on the market offers Wi-Fi.
In fact, the BlackBerry Storm, offered exclusively by Verizon Wireless, does not support Wi-Fi. The Storm is RIM's only touch-screen device, and it offers the largest screen that would be ideal for viewing video.
There are other BlackBerry devices, primarily offered by AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Sprint Nextel, that support Wi-Fi. Here's a list of Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerry devices and which carriers offer them.
BlackBerry Bold (AT&T)
BlackBerry Curve 8900 (T-Mobile)
BlackBerry Curve 8320 (AT&T and T-Mobile)
BlackBerry 8820 (AT&T and T-Mobile)
BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 (T-Mobile)
BlackBerry Curve 8350i (Sprint Nextel)
BlackBerry Pearl 8120 (AT&T and T-Mobile)
CNET Reviews editor Bonnie Cha contributed to this article.