Universal Mobile, a division of Universal Music International (UMI), has joined forces with French communications company Alcatel to develop a third-generation (3G) mobile multimedia service.

Universal Mobile, a division of Universal Music International (UMI), has joined forces with French communications company Alcatel to develop a third-generation (3G) mobile multimedia service.

The partnership was announced Tuesday (Feb. 24) at the 3GSM World Congress confab in Cannes. Universal Mobile will create and supply 3G content for cell phones, while Alcatel provides the systems required.

In addition to existing audio services such as ringtones, Universal Mobile will produce personalized video mail greetings, ring-back tones and other mobile entertainment linked to original music recordings. Alcatel will provide technology such as its Video Mail Box, in which an artist appears on the mobile phone's display screen to inform users they have messages waiting; Video Delivery Portal, in which a celebrity instructs the user which numbers to press to access information or a service; and Video Ring Back Tone, which enables callers to watch a video while waiting for the phone to be answered.

Universal Mobile CEO Cedric Ponsot predicts that the first results of the deal will be marketed by the end of this year in Europe or Asia, where cell-phone operators are preparing to roll out 3G networks.

"Normally, the companies will create the technology but find the content application two years later," he tells Billboard.biz. "By then, it's too late to fit new developments around that technology. This time, we've got the consumer in mind from the very beginning."

Ponsot's team is already inviting artists to participate in content production. "I am going to encourage Universal artists to take part by either making their music videos available, or by taking part in special videos for the personalized video mail greetings and ring-back tones," he says. "We want to work with artists at an early stage because they'd need to work creatively in a different way. "

Universal Mobile already has a deal with T-Mobile, the operator controlled by Deutsche Telekom, which is offering Europe's first audio ring-back tones in the U.K. and Germany.

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