NEW YORK AT&T Inc, the biggest U.S. mobile
service, said on Monday it would offer wireless song downloads
from Napster Inc's digital music service, expanding an existing
AT&T, which already lets Napster subscribers transfer music
from their personal computer to their cell phone via a cable or
a storage card, said it would sell Napster music directly on
its phones a price of $7.49 (3.70 pounds) for a bundle of five
songs, or $1.99 for a la carte purchases, beginning in mid
Napster, which only gives customers access to the
downloaded music only as long as they pay monthly subscription
fees, charges about $15 a month for unlimited music transfers
for its existing portable music service. Its computer only
services costs subscribers about $10 a month.
Apple Inc, which leads the digital music market, sells
songs for 99 cents each as does Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S.
AT&T's director of premium content Rob Hyatt acknowledged
that the price is more expensive that rival offers. But while
the price may put off many consumers it would attract young
music fans who want to make spontaneous purchases.
"They're very price insensitive," he said in a telephone
interview with Reuters.
About 10 million U.S. consumers are expected to download
about 70 million songs to their phones in 2007, according to
technology research firm IDC, which expects 44 million U.S.
consumers to buy songs directly on their phones by 2011.
Music is part of a growing number of advanced services,
such as video and Web surfing, that mobile operators have been
adding in an effort to boost revenue by encouraging customers
to use their phones for more than just talking.
Napster, which draws on a library of 5 million tracks, is
the second over-the-air music offer from AT&T, which was slower
than its rivals to deliver song downloads directly to phones.
AT&T already offers wireless downloads through digital
music store eMusic at similar rates to its Napster fees.
AT&T did not say on which phones the Napster service will
work. It will not work on Apple's iPhone, which only supports
to Apple's iTunes music service and does not allow wireless
downloads over the cellular network.