Omnifone Announces Mobile Music Service

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Britain’s Omnifone has announced an ambitious new MusicStation mobile music service, aiming to provide an all-you-can-eat subscription-based music from all major music labels to owners ot 2.5G and 3G mobile phones throughout Europe (and, eventually, other regions). The service will be priced at £1.99/&euro2.99 a week, and has already set up partnership deals with 23 mobile network operators.

"The launch of MusicStation heralds the next generation mobile music experience for the hundreds of millions of mobile phone subscribers worldwide who want a simple, easy-to-use digital music experience," said Rob Lewis, CEO of Omnifone, in a statement. "MusicStation will give users of any music-capable handset the ability to legally access, download and enjoy an unlimited amount of music, from a global music catalogue supported by the music industry, all for a small weekly fee, wherever they are."

MusicStation users will be able to search for, download, and play music on their mobile phone, PC, or Macintosh, as well as be able to create and manage playlists, and share their favorite tracks and playlists within the MusicStation community. Downloads take place in the background while music is being played, and MusicStation supports over-the-air music download capabilities on both 2.5G and 3G handsets, giving music fans access to new music at any time, at any location they can get data coverage.

Omnifone says MusicStation runs on nearly all Java and Symbian 2.5G and 3G mobile phones, which account for some 80 percent of the handsets sold in western Europe today; functionality and interface are virtually identical across all phone models, and the service stores playlists centrally so, if a handset is damaged, lost, or stolen, a user can get their MusicStation experience back as soon as they get their new handset up and running. A user’s favorite tracks are stored in a phone’s internal or removable memory, with the software preferentially downloading and storing favorite and about-to-be-played tracks transparently in the background.

Omnifone is quick to contrast itself with Apple’s iTunes music service (which has come under regulatory scrutiny in Europe) and the company’s pending iPhone, due to launch in Europe toward the end of 2007. "By leveraging the hundreds of millions of handsets sold every year by operators to deliver MusicStation into the global market, we believe we can give Apple a run for its money in digital music provision", said Lewis. "The consumer experience of using MusicStation has much in common with that of an iPod, except that with MusicStation users don’t need a credit card, computer or broadband connection and can still download and enjoy the world’s music, all the time." And MusicStation will download music over the air, providing a revnue stream to mobile operators that Apple’s sideload-only iPhone will not.

MusicStation’s first rollouts will get underway during the second quarter, with Scandinavian operator Telenor and South Africa’s Vodafone partner Vodacom. Four more European and Asia-Pacific networks will come online in the second quarter, with further European rollouts planned for the third quarter. Omnifone confirms it has partners with phone networks spanning Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the U.K. Of course, there’s no indication when—or if—MusicStation might hit the North American market…but it’s good to know there’s competition somewhere, right?

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