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AT&T's Big Mobile Play For Your Cell Phone

The mobile carriers are all chasing the next leg of growth--data services: texting, downloading music, watching videos--everything but making phone calls. And today AT&T is introducing a new way to grow this business--MyMedia Net--an easier way to surf the internet from your cell phone.

As anyone who's tried it knows, it's so hard to navigate to web pages on your phone, so this system allows you to set up your favorite web sites on your computer.

With AT&T's Cingular servicing the iPhone, AT&T wants to make that easy access to the Internet available to all its customers. So, no, it won't be as easy as with an iPhone, but it won't be as impossible (and slow) as it is to get my phone up online. And the easeier it is, the more people will use data services, making AT&T more money.

Verizon has a similar system--part of the mad rush for this space--but AT&T's is the latest generation in terms of 'ease of use'--the industry buzz word for 'ease of generating new revenues'. Who knew that the non-voice part of the business would be the fastest-growing!

Wireless data transmission is growing 400% a year for AT&T--unfortunately revenue in that division isn't growing quite that fast, but it's still booming. In AT&T's second quarter wireless data revenues grew 66.9% from the year earlier quarter, to $1.7 billion. By mid-way through the year, AT&T wireless had about 37 million data users, up 39% over the past year--and they sent 277 million multimedia messages (photo, video etc) and about 18 BILLION text messages--both those numbers more than double from a year earlier.

One interesting point--in Europe and Asia, mobile phone users are a lot more familiar with data services than those here in the U.S. You see, here stateside, we're still accustomed to thinking of our phones as primarily for talking. Soon we'll catch up with the rest of the world and will use them for everything--from consuming media to buying groceries.

One trend to keep an eye on--mobile advertising--companies like Google will increasingly provide ads for your cell phone, to support free content on your phone. But even if you don't have to pay the media company for the

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.