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Disney Postpones UK Mobile Service, Verizon Carries On

August 17, 2006

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Disney has postponed indefinitely plans to launch a mobile phone operator in the UK. The company confirmed a growing rumour about problems with the service last Friday. It had intended to have handsets in the shops in time for Christmas trading period. Disney‘s mobile service, carried over the O2 network, was going to target families and children. Disney intended its UK mobile phone service to reach families with children, using standard handsets pre-loaded with Disney content and games. The service was also designed to help parents customize kid’s handsets so that they can only dial pre-approved numbers. The plans ran into criticism from parents and consumer groups, including the National Consumer Council. They claimed Disney should not be trying to market mobile phones to children as young as eight. In a statement Disney blamed a difficult retail market for its decision. It said: “Distribution outlets have been consolidating and there is now increased competition. However, we will keep one eye on the landscape.” 

Mobile services with children in mind are indeed a hot issue, sure to stir strong criticism. However it is perceived as one of the segments of the market that will eventually become one of the most profitable in the future. The European Commission has already started to work on guidelines for a legal framework of the activity. Operator Verizon lost no time. As Disney justifies its strategic retreat from the UK mobile arena, Verizon is in the second month of operation of its Chaperone service in the United States that enables parents to keep track of their children’s whereabouts, through their LG Migo cell phones. The service presents itself as an easy way for children to contact their parents if the situation requires it.Lee Daniels, Verizon product development declared that Chaperone “gives parents an added tool for keeping in contact with their children. If the unexpected happens, a child carrying a Chaperone-enabled Migo phone will be able to quickly get in touch with parents or another responsible adult – and even emergency personnel – who can help.”

The child position is tracked using GPS capabilities built into the phone. Parents are able to see the location of the phone on a map on the Verizon web site or via a cell phone-based application. Further features allow for parents to receive alerts whenever the Migo phone leaves a predetermined area.

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