EarthLink Gets Smart(phones)

Forbes writes EarthLink has begun selling smartphones, a move that makes it the first Internet service provider to offer its own cellular service. But the company may have a hard time getting consumers to call.
The new phone, made by Research In Motion (nasdaq: RIMM – news – people ), is the color BlackBerry 7750, an all-in-one device that allows access to e-mail, the Internet and phone calls. EarthLink (nasdaq: ELNK – news – people ) has offered data-only BlackBerry devices since December 2000.
In a way, it’s a little bit of an odd match,” says Yankee Group analyst Roger Entner. BlackBerry devices are typically used in corporate enterprises, and usually don’t appeal directly to the consumer Internet subscribers who constitute the majority of EarthLink’s customer base. Entner says the company could be using the device as a stepping stone towards a broader wireless effort, which eventually may include selling lower-cost phones, with billing bundled into customers’ monthly invoices.