COPENHAGEN Sony Ericsson will launch a mobile phone service with unlimited music downloads within weeks, the company said on Tuesday, as it competes with Nokia in expanding business beyond the sale of handsets.
Sony Ericsson's Play Now Plus, which will be available solely through telecoms operators, will provide subscribers access to millions of songs, and users can keep up to 300 songs after their 6-18 month contracts end.
"In a few weeks' time this service will be available with Telenor," Sony Ericsson's marketing head Lennard Hoornik told reporters as he outlined plans for the launch at a media event in Copenhagen.
He said Telenor will initially launch the service in Sweden and expand to other Western European countries in the middle of the 2009 first quarter and to other parts of the world in the second quarter.
"It is a further music offer in an increasingly crowded market, designed to compete with Nokia's Comes with Music," said Paolo Pescatore, analyst with research firm CCS Insight.
Users of Nokia's Comes with Music service, which will begin on October 17 in Britain, can download and keep unlimited amounts of music for a year. The service is expected to cost up to 70 pounds extra on top of the phone price.
Nokia has not commented on the price of the service, but analysts expect it to reach consumers with free phone offers from operators if clients sign up for 12- or 24-month contracts.
"In the long term music lovers will clearly be drawn to devices which will come with unlimited access to music. It is such an attractive proposition," Rob Lewis, the head of Omnifone, a technology partner for Sony Ericsson, told Reuters.
The Play Now Plus service will cost 99 Swedish crowns a month, a Telenor executive told journalists at the event.
Cellphone makers are seeking additional revenues from outside the maturing handset business, where price battles are getting tougher and consumer demand is slowing.
($1=6.496 Swedish Crown)
(Reporting by Adam Cox and Tarmo Virki, editing by Richard Chang)