Cellphone entertainment popularity is booming. Every week, Verizon Wireless subscribers pull 1.2 million games, ringtones, and other features from its ”Get it Now” service.

Market researchers Frost & Sullivan forecast that ”wireless personalization and entertainment” — including games, graphics, and snippets of songs that play when your phone rings — will become a $1 billion industry by 2006.

However, services including Verizon Wireless’s ”Get it Now,” AT&T Wireless’ mMode, and T-Mobile’s t-zones operate very much like the wireless handset version of the America Online ”walled garden” of content. Like cable firms that sign deals with TV channels, wireless carriers have built offerings that generally feature a limited, exclusive selection of games, sports, weather, financial, news, entertainment, and other information from big-media providers like MSNBC, The Weather Channel, and ESPN.

But a market that counts 155 million US wireless phone owners is offering demand and opportunities for the cellular world’s version of indie music labels, Weblogs, and alternative newspapers. ”The biggest challenges here,” said Mark Lowenstein, managing director of Wellesley wireless consulting firm Mobile Ecosystem, ”are when you have 30,000-plus wireless applications out there, as you do now, how do you even get on the deck or make sure you are easy to find, given the limited screen size and navigation capabilities” of today’s phones.

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