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Two More Carriers Launch Music Downloads

New York – The lines between cellphones, MP3 players and radios continued to blur with the inauguration of over-the-air music-download services by carriers Qwest and SunCom and XM Satellite Radio streams by carrier Alltel.

The Qwest and SunCom announcements bring to at least four the number of cellular service providers offering music downloads directly to their phones over their cellular networks.

The Alltel announcement marks the first time that XM is distributing select channels over cellular airwaves. Late last year, Sprint Nextel began streaming 21 Sirius Satellite channels over the air as one of several subscription-based music-streaming services.

Here’s what the three carriers announced:

Qwest: The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) early this month launched its first handset to support over-the-air music downloads. The MVNO resells Sprint/Nextel network airtime and access to the Sprint Music Store for downloads. Samsung’s A920 retails for $189 with one-year contract and $139 with two-year contract.

The handset also offers mobile video streaming, global positioning system (GPS) navigation, Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio streams, 1.3-megapixel camera with flash and digital zoom, embedded stereo speakers, and an external TransFLASH memory card slot. An external navigation key offers easy access to Music on Demand play lists and media content.

Qwest sells through its own stores and indirect wireless-specialty stores.

SunCom: The Berwyn, Pa., carrier yesterday launched its music-download offering, which is an Ericsson-hosted Napster Mobile-branded service. SunCom, the first U.S. carrier to offer Napster Mobile, offers two SonyErcisson Walkman-brand phones compatible with the service.

Like similar services available through Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, Napster Mobile is a dual-download service that lets consumers download songs over the cellular airwaves directly to their handsets while a duplicate track becomes available for home PC downloading.

Like those carriers’ services, Napster Mobile downloads to a PC in protected Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. To the phone, Napster and Sprint download protected aacPlus files, while Verizon downloads Windows Media Pro.

Napster Mobile offers more than 2 million songs, more than the Sprint and Verizon services combined, SunCom claimed. SunCom priced the songs at $2, but the price includes downloads to the phone and to the PC.

SunCom’s compatible phones are the Sony Ericsson W300 Walkman phone and W810 Walkman phone, available through August 20 at $69.99 and $199.99, respectively, with a two-year agreement.

Both are equipped with music player, dedicated music-menu button, FM radio, integrated camera and text and picture messaging. Built-in Bluetooth and USB connectivity allow for the transfer of music and other files from a PC to the phones.

The W810 is a quad-band EDGE phone with memory slot and included 512 MB of removable memory.

Sprint Nextel launched its download service in late 2005, and Verizon launched in January 2006.

SunCom’s markets include parts of six Southeast states with 13.6 million pops.

Alltel: For $7.99/month, Alltel subscribers can stream 20 commercial-free XM music channels, select channels by genre, and view song title, artist name, and album information on their phone’s display. The channels include ’70s, ’80s and ’90s decades channels, top 20, alternative rock, indie rock, hip-hop/R&B, blues, new country hits and Latin pop hits.

Late last year, Sprint began streaming 21 channels of Sirius music and related programming. Sirius channels include pop, hip hop/R&B, rock, country, jazz, blues, Broadway, electronic and dance, as well as “hits” from the various decades from the ’60s to the present.