News Corp.’s new free, ad-supported, mobile edition of MySpace (mobile.myspace.com) finally opens the social networking site to anyone with a Web-capable mobile phone and data plan. This is good news for MySpace users, most of which couldn’t previously access the site from their mobile phones. It’s also potentially great news for wireless carriers, which should get a boost in their efforts to sign more subscribers up for mobile data plans.
MySpace has been available to some U.S. wireless subscribers for about a year, first exclusively though “virtual” carrier Helio (ENLK), and later via AT&T (T), the largest U.S. wireless provider. (AT&T charges $3 per month for access to MySpace Mobile; Helio includes MySpace access in its service plans.) But about 75% of people use other carriers, like Verizon Wireless (VZ), Sprint Nextel (S), and T-Mobile (DT), and couldn’t access MySpace from their mobile phones. Now they can. But first, subscribers will need to sign up for a mobile data plan, which range from about $10 per month to $40 per month, depending on the phone and carrier.
The mobile Web hasn’t taken off, and only about 3.5% of U.S. wireless subscribers access social networking sites or blogs from their phones, according to research firm M:Metrics. But as popular Web services like MySpace set up mobile sites, that number should increase. And that’s good news for carriers, which are counting on selling data services like mobile Web access to drive growth as subscribers spend less money on plain-vanilla mobile phone calls.