Helio to open chain of retail stores

MVNO Helio, the joint venture between Earthlink and South Korea's SK Telecom that targets the young tech-savvy market, has plans to open a chain of retail stores this fall. The MVNO, which targets the young tech-savvy market, plans to open a flagship store in Santa Monica, CA, in early October, followed by shops in Denver; San Diego; Palo Alto, CA; and New York. The stores will include lounges, a "Q&A bar," video screens, multiplayer games and live demonstrations by content providers such as game makers.

The move is a must if Helio wants to reach its goal of adding 3 million customers by 2009. And traditional carriers appear to be putting the squeeze on dealers not to carry competitor products, especially those from MVNOs. Virgin Mobile USA CEO Dan Schulman recently told FierceWireless that carriers are becoming a bigger problem for MVNOs as lower prices and try to block them from distribution channels. And apparently, Earthlink and SK Telecom are willing to invest the big bucks to make Helio a formidable competitor. How much are they willing to throw at the operator?

For more about Helio's plan to open retail stores:
- read this article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)