Wireless Provider Plans to Enter U.S. Market Next Year

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Helio, a wireless telephone carrier planning to enter the U.S. market next year with cutting-edge technology, has hired Deutsch Los Angeles as agency for its estimated $50 million advertising account.

A company spokeswoman said Deutsch was hired following a quiet review this summer. She declined to disclose spending, but said Helio has $440 million in venture capital funding and “a good chunk of that money will be spent to develop the brand.” Earlier this week, the Los Angeles-based company, backed by Internet service provider Earthlink and South Korean carrier SK Telecom, announced the new name Helio, which was developed internally.

Helio will target young, tech-savvy consumers with what is being touted as exclusive high-end cellphones never before seen in the U.S. The devices are common in South Korea, one of the most innovative wireless markets in the world. Helio will use a 3G, or third generation, network, which means that its phones will serve as a multimedia mobile device capable of playing video.

Getting crowded
The brand launches at a time when a number of other wireless-service providers are also entering the market, each going after the same 18- to 35-year-old target. ESPN Mobile, a device aimed at sports fans, will begin online sales for this holiday season and then sell more widely through retail outlets next year.

Also about to hit the market is Amp’d Mobile, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO, using Verizon Wireless’ high-speed network. Amp’d in early November launches a teaser campaign, from agency Taxi, New York, which has a dark “Six Feet Under”-type creative.

Up until now, with few exceptions, wireless-service providers such as Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Sprint by and large have targeted mass audiences. The exceptions were Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile, both of which offered pre-paid products targeted to people without credit cards or seeking to keep a lid on bills. Now, however, a new wave of niche carriers is beginning to hit the marketplace, including a number of Hispanic-targeted wireless-services providers.