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Helio Founder Sky Dayton Trades CEO Job for Chair

Date: 1/30/2008 11:01:17 PM

Sky Dayton, the founder and chief executive of Helio, is stepping down as CEO to become chairman of the youthoriented cellphone provider.

Dayton, who also founded the Internet service provider EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK) , will be replaced at Helio by Wonhee Sull, formerly the companys president and chief operating officer.

A Taste of Korea
Helio is a joint venture of EarthLink and South Korean phone company SK Telecom, and is an attempt to bring the highend handsets and sophisticated data applications that are popular in Korea to a U.S. audience.

As chairman, Dayton replaces Jinwoo So, president of global business at SK Telecom. Sull comes from the research and design side of the phone company.

"Helio has reached a point in its development where I feel the timing is right for this change ... As we have for the past three years, the two of us will continue to define Helios direction and future," Dayton said Monday in a statement.

Frequent Founder
Dayton "loves to start things, build teams and brands" and then turn over daytoday management to others, said Helio spokesperson Brooke Hammerling.

Dayton also founded Boingo Wireless , and remains chairman of the company. It sells access to WiFi hotspots in public areas.

Helio, which launched in May 2006, said it now has "nearly" 200,000 subscribers, who pay an average of more than US$85 a month. Thats higher than the industry average, but Helio has still contributed to losses at EarthLink.

SK Telecom said last year it decided to invest an additional $270 million in Helio, cutting EarthLinks ownership share to about 22 percent.

Virtual Network
Helio is operating with a business model thats proved very difficult for other companies. It doesnt have its own cellular towers. Instead, it buys wholesale access to Sprint Nextels (NYSE: S) highspeed network, making it a socalled mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO.

A number of other companies have used the MVNO business model, and success stories are few. Ampd Mobile, ESPN Mobile and Disney Mobile have all shut down. Virgin Mobile USA is doing better, but its far larger than Helio, with more than 4.8 million subscribers.

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