Omnifone beats rivals with mobile

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The British firm Omnifone yesterday launched a mobile phone with unlimited music download services direct to the handset, in a move which will beat major rivals Apple and Nokia.

Omnifone unveiled the MusicStation Max unlimited mobile music handset programme at the Mobile Phone World Congress in Barcelona.

The company says it has agreements in place to provide songs from a number of big music labels, including EMI. It will mean owners of the new phone will be able to download, play and share unlimited amounts of music, wherever they are.

The handset differs from the Apple iPhone because tracks can be downloaded wirelessly over high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) and 3G networks.

The Korean giant LG Electronics is the first manufacturer to sign up for Omnifone's MusicStation Max programme, with the 3G Music Station Max handsets due to be on the market by June.

The MusicStation Max phones will be in the shops before rivals like Nokia's Comes With Music service, which includes a year of downloads from Universal's catalogue.

"Consumers will come to expect unlimited mobile music downloads direct to their phones whenever they want," said Rob Lewis, the chief executive of Omnifone.

"The new MusicStation Max handsets will give consumers the ultimate music freedom; the ability to download, discover, play and share whatever music they want, wherever they are"

Omnifone's software is already available on subscription to Vodafone customers in Britain and has been sold in Hong Kong, Sweden and South Africa.

Operators expect the new service will provoke a surge in mobile phone use.

Dominique Oh, vice-president of LG, said: "MusicStation Max gives LG the opportunity to deliver a handset that can download unlimited amounts of music, direct-to-mobile, over the mobile data network. It reinforces our strategy to deliver handsets that deliver higher subscriber revenues and average revenue per user to our operator partners."

Universal Music, which has backed Nokia's Comes With Music offering, said it had struck international licensing deals with MusicStation Max and other labels are expected to follow.

MusicStation Max handsets will be prelicensed so consumers sign up for a music, voice, and data plan.