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Cricket Initiates Over-Air Music Downloads

San Diego — Cricket Communications has become the latest cellular carrier, and the first prepaid carrier, to offer over-the-air downloads of music.

Cricket, a Leap Wireless subsidiary, offers unlimited-use prepaid calling plans designed to replace landline phone service in a home.

Consumers can use a Cricket phone to search for songs by title, artist, album, song and genre and download them over the air to their phone for $1.99/song. Consumers can also opt for three download credits for a $5 monthly charge. An additional data plan isn’t needed to download songs via Cricket phones’ web browser. Over-the-air downloads are in the protected AAC+ format and are locked to the handset on which they were downloaded, the company said.

Songs are also available online for PC downloads at for $0.99 each. Downloads to the PC are in protected WMA format and cannot be side-loaded to a Cricket handset However, consumers can use Cricket’s Music Manager software to two copies of each song, one for their PC and one for over-the-air download to the phone, at a combined cost of $2.25/song.

Consumers sign up for Mobile Music over the air, online or at Cricket stores and dealers. To download songs over the air, consumers need select CDMA 1x EV-DO 3G handsets with integrated music player and memory card slot. Compatible phones include the Motorola Rokr, Krzr, Slvr and Razr2; and Samsung JetSet, r610 and r500.

Sprint Nextel was the first carrier to launch over-the-air song downloads in 2005, followed in January 2006 by Verizon Wireless and in 2007 by AT&T. Also in 2006, Pennsylvania-based regional carrier SunCom Wireless launched an over-the-air download service. The carrier was purchased in early 2008 by T-Mobile.

In 2006, regional landline operator Qwest Communications began offering an over-the-air music-download service as part of its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) cellular services, which used the Sprint Nextel network. Qwest has since dropped its Qwest-branded MVNO service and acts as a master agent for Verizon Wireless-branded phones and services, including Verizon’s download service. Qwest Communications operates about 110 stores in 14 states to sell mobile and home communications services.