Ericsson, Napster team up for mobile phone music

Ericsson and Napster team up to offer a music download service to mobile phone network operators.

The world's biggest telecommunications equipment provider has teamed up with popular Internet music service Napster to make it simpler for mobile phone operators to open up online music stores for their customers. The two companies have developed a music downloading system that operators can use to deliver full songs to their customers' mobile phones, Ericsson and Napster said Wednesday.

Ericsson said users will be able to pay for the music service on their phone bills. Although pricing has not yet been decided, the companies will use Napster's current pricing model as a starting point, a spokesman for Ericsson said.

Napster boasts over 1 million song titles, according to its Web site. Today, these can be downloaded to PCs over fixed-line Internet connections for a basic subscription fee of US$9.95 per month, or US$0.99 per song.

The companies said the mobile phone service will begin within a year.

The deal highlights how popular music downloads have become, fueled by better digital music quality and the ability to store ever greater amounts of songs, pictures and other data on increasingly smaller devices. The popularity of using music for mobile phone ring tones and ringback tones has also helped spur the trend, he said.

The Napster-Ericsson music system will be sold to mobile service providers, who will then resell the service to their customers. It is designed to work with mobile phones already on the market and new ones designed for high-speed networks, the two companies said in a news release.

But the service will face stiff competition from companies already up and running with similar music stores.

Nokia announced similar plans to offer a service to carriers in February, working with Microsoft and online music catalog Loudeye.

Australian mobile telecommunications provider Optus Administration has been offering music downloads since last September in tandem with MTV Networks, which includes music video previews and the ability to download music to a PC then transfer it to a handset.

"The greater capacity and speed offered by 3G technology will enable users to download to the handset," said an Optus spokeswoman. Optus plans to roll out its 3G mobile broadband service by the end of this year.

The company currently offers 150,000 songs and charges AU$2 per song and AU$18.50 for an entire album.

In addition, Thailand's Orange announced earlier this week it had teamed up with local subsidiaries of Nokia and Hewlett-Packard to soon begin offering a music streaming service to customers.

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Dan Nystedt

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