LONDON Vodafone Group Plc unveiled a range of new handsets and services for the key Christmas period on Monday including an exclusive music service offering unlimited tracks, to challenge the iPhone in Britain.
Mobile handset makers and network operators have been investing heavily in music in recent years to boost revenue.
Nokia, the world's largest cell phone maker, unveiled an online music store last month while Apple's latest "must-have" gadget, the iPhone, is due in Britain by the end of the year.
Analysts had expected Vodafone to secure an exclusive, pan-European deal to sell the iPhone but media reports suggest it is now set to miss out.
"I am sure the iPhone will have appeal but we think what we are offering here with MusicStation is a very good, customer-centric, all-you-can-eat offer," Vodafone Chief Marketing Officer Tim Yates told Reuters.
Vodafone has signed an exclusive deal with British music firm Omnifone that will give customers an unlimited number of tracks from a catalogue of over 1 million to their mobile phones for a weekly fee of 1.99 pounds.
Omnifone's MusicStation will allow consumers to download music while they are on the move and it will be available on new Vodafone UK handsets as well as existing 2.5G and 3G mobiles, meaning most customers would not need to upgrade their phones.
Nokia will roll out its music store later this year with songs selling for 1 euro (68 pence) each and Yates said Vodafone would range the Nokia handsets, the N81 and N95, in its store and allow customers to decide which music service to use.
"Today's announcement ... means a fundamental change to the way people experience music on their phones," he said.
In a bid to boost its Christmas sales, the group also unveiled additions to its handset range, offering what it said was its widest choice of Internet-ready mobile phones with high-speed third-generation (3G) broadband access.
Vodafone, which has been developing its 3G network across Europe, will sell multimedia phones from manufacturers including Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson and the majority of devices will support access to Web sites such as eBay, MySpace and YouTube.
Vodafone will also market two BlackBerry handsets from Research in Motion to consumers as well as business customers.