AT&T Mobile launches mobile music service

AT&T launched an over-the-air music download service for mobile users with eMusic.

AT&T Inc. made its first foray into over-the-air music downloads in a deal with independent music seller eMusic.com Inc. that excludes iPhone users.

AT&T mobile customers can already transfer music from their PCs to mobile phones but the eMusic deal lets them download songs wirelessly to their phones. Each song downloaded to the phone is also automatically available for the user to download to their PC for no additional cost.

The operator has followed its competitors in charging a premium for the songs. There is no per-song pricing option. Customers will pay US$7.49 per month for five songs, with the option of adding five more songs for the same price. That works out to US$1.50 per song.

By comparison, PC users subscribe to eMusic on the low end for $9.99 per month, which includes 30 songs. That works out to $0.33 per song.

AT&T strongly recommends that users have an unlimited data plan before even previewing tracks on the eMusic mobile service.

For now, users can choose from four phones to use the mobile service: the Samsung a717 and a727, new versions of the Samsung SYNC and the Nokia N75.

Absent from that list is the iPhone, introduced by AT&T on June 29. IPhone users transfer music from iTunes on their computers to the phone and can't download music wirelessly.

In addition to eMusic and the iPhone option, AT&T promotes Napster and Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go as options for its customers to transfer songs from their PCs to their phones.

EMusic offers over 2 million songs for download and exclusively sells music that is free of DRM (digital rights management). While its catalog includes some mainstream artists, most of its music comes from independent labels.

Sprint Nextel Corp. launched an over-the-air music download service in 2005, charging $2.50 per song but has since cut that price to $0.99. Verizon Wireless Inc. charges $1.99 per song for wireless downloads.

In Europe, Omnifone Ltd. was started earlier this year to offer mobile music. It has signed agreements to sell music from the major labels and 30 operators have said they'll offer the service to customers. It costs a‚¬2.99 ($4) per week for unlimited downloads.

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