By BRUCE MEYERSON, AP Business Writer
Sprint Nextel Corp. is poised for a full-scale launch of its
high-speed wireless network, a service that will include the first
over-the-air music download store in the United States.
The newly merged cell phone company was planning a series of major
announcements for Monday morning.
In advance of the announcement, Sprint Nextel distributed review units
of a new cell phone equipped with EV-DO, the technology with which the
company's network is being upgraded to offer speedier Internet
connections and other data services.
The Samsung handset also featured a menu icon for music that leads to
a service named "Sprint Music Store" offering downloads from a wide
array of genres for $2.50 per song. The purchase entitles a user to
download a copy of the same song to a computer as well.
There already are a growing number of phones that can store and play
music -- most notably the ROKR handset introduced last month by
Motorola Inc. and Apple Computer Inc. for songs downloaded to a
computer from Apple's popular iTunes store. But only a few overseas
cellular operators have launched services where the music can be
delivered directly to a handset over the air.
Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless have stated numerous times they
plan to introduce speedier wireless data capabilities by the end of
this year. Both companies have lagged far behind Verizon Wireless in
deploying such capabilities for business usage on laptops and
multimedia services on high-end phones.
It was unclear how many markets would have access to the new Sprint
service initially. As a prelude to a full-blown launch, Sprint began
turning on its EV-DO service at airports and some downtown business
corridors during the summer. At last count, those limited services
were available in 127 cities.
Cingular, a joint venture between SBC Communications Inc. and
BellSouth Corp., provides high-speed wireless access across six
metropolitan areas using a different technology than Sprint and
Verizon, but has said the "UMTS" service will be available in between
15 and 20 markets by year-end.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications
Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, began rolling out its EV-DO service about
one year ago and now offers it across 61 metropolitan areas.
Sales of the ROKR have been disappointing so far, but cellular
operators remain optimistic that music phones will generate a
lucrative new revenue stream.
Napster has partnered with wireless equipment maker Ericsson to launch
a mobile music service under the Napster brand. Slated to launch in
Europe within a year and in the United States eventually, the service
would allow users to purchase individual tracks and download them
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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