Vodafone, Sony Ready Mobile Music Service

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After launching a streamed mobile TV service, Vodafone Group is poised to introduce a new streamed music offering, in a move to boost revenue beyond its core telephony business.

Europe's largest mobile phone operator has joined forces with Sony NetServices, a unit of Sony, to launch the Vodafone Radio DJ service, which offers personalized music channels streamed to customers' handsets and computers, Vodafone said Monday.

Vodafone joins a growing group of mobile phone operators around the globe launching new streamed and downloadable music services.

Last week, for instance, Verizon Wireless announced plans to launch an online music store in January, allowing customers to download songs directly to their phones and to Microsoft Windows XP PCs.

Getting Personal

A key feature of the Vodafone service is a personalization system that enables customers to "train" preprogrammed channels to their own personal tastes by simply pressing a button to indicate "like" or "dislike" while listening to a song. When pressing "dislike," customers automatically skip to the next song, according to Vodafone.

Users can also create their own personal channels.

"This is an interesting new way for users to explore and hear music that they don't have with traditional methods," says Vodafone spokesperson Ben Padovan.

The service will be available for a fee through the Vodafone Live portal, which requires handsets using packet-based technologies, such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or 3G (third-generation).

The fee comes either as a monthly subscription or in the form of a daily rate, according to Padovan. Prices will vary according to market, he says.

Vodafone will charge no extra data fee for sending the music to the phone.

In addition, users can also download and pay for songs. Pricing for music downloads was unavailable, however.

All music will be copy-protected using Microsoft DRM (digital rights management) technology.

"We will be offering hundreds of thousands of music tracks from major labels as well as independent labels," Padovan says.

Vodafone Radio DJ will be launched in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K. over the next few months, with other markets in the Vodafone Group to follow in the course of the year.

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