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Over-Air Music Downloads Launched

11/02/2005 12:25:00 PM Eastern

Overland Park, Kansas — Sprint Nextel became the first U.S. carrier to let subscribers download full-length songs over the air to hybrid MP3 player/cellular phones.

Most phones are already capable of downloading ringtones over the air, and selected phones from multiple carriers already play back music downloads transferred from a PC to a cellphone.

Sprint’s new service, however, lets subscribers pay $2.50 per song title to get two versions of a song: one that is downloaded over the air for playback on their cellphone in the AAC+ format protected by a digital rights management technology approved by the industry’s Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). The second version is downloaded by a PC for playback in protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. The home-PC download can be burned to a CD.

Sprint’s download service operates over its Power Vision CDMA 1x EV-DO high-speed network, enabling consumers to download a song in about 30 seconds. Sprint lets subscribers browse, preview and purchase songs from the big four music companies: EMI, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.

The downloads cost significantly more than the typical 99 cents per song through other authorized download sites, including iTunes. And Sprint’s selection is smaller at 250,000 songs compared to the 2 million available on other sites.

The first handsets to store over-air downloads are the MM-A940 by Samsung at $249 after rebate and the MM-9000 from Sanyo at $299 after rebate. Additional download-capable handsets are planned by year’s end. Both devices are bundled with stereo headphones and play back music files transferred from a PC. With optional 1GB removable memory cards, both devices store up to 1,000 songs downloaded over the air, or about 330 MP3s transferred from a PC.

Both models are the carrier’s first to offer Sprint Power Vision streaming audio and video services, many of which are also available at slower speeds on select Sprint CDMA 1x phones.

The carrier’s CDMA 1x EV-DO network began to roll out earlier this year and at the end of October was available to about 130 million people nationwide. It’s expected to reach over 150 million people by early 2006 with its ability to deliver data at average download speeds of 400-700Kbps with peaks up to 2Mbps.

Samsung’s MM-A940 features 2-megapixel, 2.0 optical-zoom camera with 10x digital zoom, rotating screen and built-in camcorder, and TransFLASH (MicroSD) memory card to store MP3, AAC and AAC+ music files. It also streams live TV programs and audio at broadband-like speeds. Bluetooth Wireless Technology and a speakerphone are also included.

The Sanyo handset features a 1.3-megapixel camera, camcorder, and playback of MP3, AAC and AAC+ files stored on a removable mini SD card. It also streams live TV and audio.

The streaming audio and video services are available with Sprint Power Vision service packages at $15, $20 and $25 per month, all including a streaming radio channel from Sirius, streaming live TV, and unlimited Web and data access. Similar services are available over Sprint’s slower speed CDMA 1x network.

Customers who subscribe to the enhanced services can choose from 30 channels of live and exclusive on-demand programming, including movie trailers, live information and entertainment channels from major broadcasting brands including NFL Network and Fox News Channel LIVE, CNN To Go, NBC Mobile, ABC News Now, E! and Cartoon Network.

Power Vision also includes on-demand service that allows customers to receive customized, up-to-date information based on ZIP code. Information includes news, sports, weather, money and movies. At an additional cost, additional info-channels are available, including the Oxford American dictionary, TV Guide, unlimited directory search, and maps and driving directions.

Said Len Lauer, chief operating officer for Sprint Nextel. "We were the first in the U.S. to offer live TV on a mobile phone. We were the first to offer streaming music. Now, Sprint is the first to offer full song downloads over-the-air right to your phone.”