With Clear expanding their presence, add Best Buy to their network as they join the 4g game
UPDATE: Best Buy Rolling Out Company-Branded Mobile Broadband
Last update: 6/28/2010 1:09:00 PM
(Updates with confirmation from Sprint, background.)
By Mary Ellen Lloyd and Roger Cheng
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Best Buy Inc. (BBY) is rolling out its own mobile broadband Internet service as the largest U.S. specialty electronics retailer continues to add store-branded services for the products it sells.
Using the Best Buy Connect brand, the retailer in an advertising circular this weekend said it would start offering mobile broadband plans starting at $29.99 a month for 250 megabytes without a contract, with varying costs per minute for overages. Plans at the high end provide 5 gigabytes for $59.99 a month.
The mobile broadband service represents another step for Best Buy into the wireless world, underscoring the importance of the area to the electronics chain. The company has set up separate Best Buy Mobile stores and has carved out prominent parts of its store devoted to selling phones and service plans.
Engadget.com first reported the service, which will launch July 11 in all but 75 of the company's stores.
A Sprint spokeswoman later confirmed that it would providing the underlying wireless network.
According to the circular, Best Buy said all service plans generate RewardZone points, which earn coupons for discounts and other benefits. Activation fees are waived for two-year contracts and are otherwise $35.
Representatives for Best Buy couldn't be reached immediately for comment, but company Chief Executive Brian Dunn has long labeled a priority attaching services to the millions of connectible devices Best Buy sells.
During the company's June 15 quarterly conference call, Dunn said a new store format the company is launching in June will feature internet-ready TV solutions, home broadband and mobile broadband as a central part of the retail space. He also hinted that Best Buy, which has already launched its own digital-movie download service and sells e-books on its Web site, had additional branded services in mind.
"Customers are really beginning to live the connected world in tablet computing," Dunn said at the time, calling tablets the next wave in the PC-based connectivity movement. "As the industry's leading retailer of mobile computers, we can't wait to see what new innovation this category brings and the opportunities to provide value-added features like broadband connections."
Dunn has said such services provide opportunities to improve Best Buy's gross margins.For Sprint, it represents a continuation of its strategy to sell its service through different distributors. That's particularly the case for its 4G service, which is run by Clearwire Corp. (CLWR). Clearwire sells its 4G services through the cable companies, which bundle it with their core services select communities.
Sprint owns 56% of Clearwire, while the cable companies also own a minority stake in the business.
Shares of Best Buy recently traded up 0.7% at $35.40. Sprint rose nearly 7% to $4.48.
-By Mary Ellen Lloyd, Dow Jones Newswires, 704-948-9145; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 28, 2010 13:09 ET (17:09 GMT)