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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Sound start to music on mobiles
Omnifone's Chief Executive Rob Lewis says the new eAAC+ audio format allows mobile to store thousands of songs.
Swedes have become the first to try a music download service for mobile phones that is taking on Apple's iPhone.

Developed by British hi-tech firm Omnifone, the MusicStation service gives subscribers unlimited access to music for a weekly fee.

It allows customers to download tracks from a library of one million songs while they are out and about.

Launches in the UK, France and Germany are expected to follow soon.

Sound deal

Sweden's Telenor is the first operator to offer the service to its customers but Omnifone has signed deals with 30 other mobile phone firms across Europe, Africa and Asia. It has no plans to launch the service in the US.

Image of MusicStation home screen, Omnifone
Omnifone aims to turn handsets into music players
Tracks are stored on a phone's internal or removable memory and the numbers of songs a handset can hold will vary.

Deals have been struck with the big four record companies, Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner, and several independent labels to populate the library of tracks.

The service costs 1.99 or 2.99 euros per week and the fee is added to a customer's phone bill.

To encourage people to use MusicStation this fee includes data download charges. Industry analysts have said that the high fees mobile operators levy on data downloads has discouraged people from using them.

While it is already possible to listen to music on mobiles and to download tracks these tend to be confined to particular operators or handsets.

Omnifone boss Rob Lewis said it hoped to tempt people into signing up because MusicStation worked across operators and 75% of existing handsets.

Users can share tracks and playlists with other MusicStation subscribers via the mobile network.

Apple boss Steve Jobs, AP
Omnifone aims to take on Apple's iPhone
Playlists and data about which tracks a subscriber has downloaded or listened to are stored centrally so if a phone is upgraded, lost or stolen subscribers can rebuild their collection.

If users stop paying their subscription fee they lose access to the tracks downloaded and their playlists. Omnifone said it would preserve playlists so people can rebuild their track list if they re-subscribe after a lapse.

The MusicStation service is clearly aimed at Apple's iPhone which launches in the US on 29 June and in Europe in the Autumn.

"We've been building MusicStation for over four-and-a-half years and to get it out there before the iPhone is very exciting," said Mr Lewis.

Apple intends the iPhone to become a music player as it will synchronise with iTunes and let people carry around music they have ripped or downloaded.

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