Sprint Nextel debuts wireless music download service

Sprint Nextel Corp. is launching an over-the-air music service, an offering the company hopes will entice customers to pay high per-song fees in exchange for the instant gratification of wireless downloads.

The Sprint Music Store went live Monday with a catalog of songs from EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group that Sprint said numbers in the hundreds of thousands. For US$2.50 per song, customers receive two digital copies, one formatted in AAC+ format for use only on their phone and another formatted in Windows Media Audio format, for downloading to a PC.

Sprint’s music service is supported by two new multimedia phones, the Sanyo MM-9000, priced at $380 on Sprint’s Web site, and the Samsung MM-A940, priced at $400. Those phones shipped to stores last week and are now available for purchase, a Sprint spokeswoman said. The phones come with a removable memory card for buying and storing songs; an optional 1GB card will store 1,000 songs purchased from the Sprint Music Store, the company said.

The Sprint Music Store service also requires Sprint’s Power Vision wireless broadband network, which the company began rolling out throughout the U.S. earlier this year. Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas, estimates that 130 million people are now in its Power Vision coverage zones.

Sprint’s $2.50 per-song price more than doubles the $0.99 per track price pioneered by Apple’s popular iTunes Music Store. Sprint hopes the instant access offered by its wireless service will persuade customers to pay its higher fees.

Sprint’s two new multimedia phones also allow customers to transfer music from their PCs to their phones. That functionality will compete with music player phones from other carriers — most notably, Cingular Wireless LLC, which unveiled Motorola Inc.’s Rokr last month in a joint venture with Apple.

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