March 15, 2005 9:11 PM PST

U.S. cell phone firms allow cross-carrier photo swaps

NEW ORLEANS--The top two U.S. cell phone carriers have become the first to let their subscribers swap photo mails and other mixed-media messages with each other's customers.

The agreement between No. 1 cell phone company Cingular Wireless and No. 2 operator Verizon Wireless was quietly put into place sometime during the last few weeks. Together the carriers account for 93 million of the 180 million U.S. cell phone subscribers, and it's likely the arrangement will spur other top U.S. operators to reach similar pacts.

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In the four years since Sprint introduced the first camera phones in the United States and other top carriers introduced copycat services, cell phone operators have limited photo mail swaps to transactions between their own subscribers. But now those barriers are dropping, erasing a major hurdle and, some executive believe, starting a surge in cell phone photo mailing and other use.

"We saw the same thing with text messaging: As soon as there was intercarrier messaging, use of text messaging started to soar," Cingular Wireless Vice President Jim Ryan said Tuesday during an interview here at CTIA Wireless 2005, a major cell phone trade show. "We're trading traffic with Verizon Wireless right now. By the end of the second quarter, we're looking to be interoperable with all major carriers."

"Trading traffic" with Verizon was not an easy feat from a technology perspective, mainly because not every camera phone is the same. Some have different screen sizes or differ in the range of colors they can work with. The nuances mean operators must adjust the photos accordingly, using network equipment known as a mixed-media message service center.

Adding to the complexities, say analysts and cell phone company executives, is that cell phone service providers have each built slightly different versions of photo services, instead of waiting for an industrywide standard.

Despite interoperability difficulties, camera phones are credited with the surging use of wireless data services in the United States, with some wireless operators saying their data revenues have doubled in the past two years.

Last year, 180 million camera phones were sold worldwide, a 130 percent increase over 2003. Most analysts believe the growth will continue, with some predicting about 280 million camera phones will be sold by the end of the year. There may be 1 billion camera phones in circulation by year's end.

The agreement between Cingular and Verizon Wireless surfaces just a day after Kodak Chief Executive Daniel Carp lambasted the cell phone industry for moving too quickly to more-advanced mixed-media services, such as streaming video to handsets, without fixing the problems of photo mail services. The end result, Carp warned, will be throttling these services, which have been credited with Americans' increased use of their cell phones' Internet connections, which comes into play in photo mail services.


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Who cares about phone to phone?
Just give me the option of uploading my photos to a PC via a simple cable instead of making me go through their demented mail service in the first place.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
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Poor implementation
Lame. I (verizon) sent a pic to my girl (cingular) and she got a text message with a url and a reference number to view the image. If I wanted her to view the pic on a computer I would have EMAILED it to her from my phone (and saved her a dime). I thought the whole point was to send MMS from phone to phone between carriers ?!? This is just stupid.
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MMS Capable Devices

Sorry to hear about your experience going x-carrier. It truly does work most of the time, however, there are certain devices that either do not allow MMS (called Legacy devices) and thus give the user to access a picture sent to them on a web site.

However, if your girlfriend's phone is MMS capable that should be reported as an issue so we can determine what type of phone the message came from and was going to and correct any issues within transcoding.

Hope this helps a little bit,
Posted by (1 comment )
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