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AT&T adds tunes to cell service

Users can now buy songs on their cells

AT&T Wireless is taking the digital music market mobile.

Company today becomes the first cell-phone carrier to launch an online musicstore over its cellular network. Users will be able to purchase songs via cell phone and download them later on a computer.

Although content-protection technology is not yet advanced enough to allow complete downloads to phones, company is pitching the store as a way for customers who might hear a song they want in any location to download it immediately, rather than hope they remember it when next in front of a computer.

Customers with advanced phones will be able to listen to 30-second clips before purchasing a track.

In addition, song purchases will be added to a cell-phone bill and don’t require a separate credit card transaction.

It’s being integrated with AT&T Wireless’ music ID service, which lets customers hold a phone up to a song being played and, for 99¢, receive the name and artist. Service also will provide a link to purchase the song for download.

Like most online musicstores, the mobile service will offer more than 750,000 songs from all four major labels and dozens of independents. Tracks are priced at 99¢ each.

‘Remote control’

“This isn’t really a musicstore on a cell phone, but a portable remote control for a computer musicstore,” explained Sam Hall, VP of mMode services for AT&T Wireless. “It lets you make a purchasing decision right when you’re hearing music.”

AT&T’s mMode Music Store is being managed by digital media company Loudeye, which powers dozens of different online musicstores, and encoded with Microsoft’s Windows Media copy protection.

Because the store uses Microsoft technology, it will work only on Windows Media-compatible portable devices, not Apple’s iPod.

Hall added he’s hoping to sign deals with other musicstores, including Apple iTunes, to make them available to his company’s cellular customers.

AT&T Wireless agreed to be acquired by competitor Cingular earlier this year, but there are no plans to integrate the mMode Music Store with Cingular.

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