Warner Music inks global cell phone download deal

Warner Music Group has signed a global agreement with mobile software and services provider Melodeo Inc. to offer music fans the ability to download entire tracks from its catalog to their mobile phones.

Under a deal announced Wednesday those who have handsets with Melodeo's software will be able to preview, purchase and download Warner Music tracks. Warner hopes to bank on the abundance of worldwide cell phone users, and popularity of ring tone downloads, to sell individual tracks.

Although Warner Music Group has separate content deals with various operators in the U.S. and Europe, this is its first global download deal and is important that it involves full-length tracks, the music company said.

So far, Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica Móviles SA has signed up to offer Melodeo's software to its wireless subscribers in Spain, under the brand name Mplay. Telefónica is incorporating the software in its handsets, as well as offering the technology over its network for download to midrange and high-end handsets, the operator said.

Melodeo also expects to announce a deal with another European operator shortly, and is working closely with a number of U.S. operators for possible launch next year, according to Don Davidge, the company's senior vice president of marketing and sales.

Melodeo's software includes a music database that resides on the phone and features a search capability for finding songs and artists.

Users search for songs and download them through the air to their handsets.

Melodeo, based in Seattle, said that its software saves bandwidth by downloading, and not streaming, tracks and applying an advanced audio codec that makes music files smaller than a typical MP3 file. Melodeo uses Coding Technologies' aacPlus codec, which produces music files in the 500K bytes to 750K bytes range, compared to the 3M bytes of space needed for a typical MP3, according to Davidge.

Although mobile phone memory varies, Melodeo said that users with 64M bytes of memory can store 75 to 125 tracks. And the next version of Melodeo's software, due out early next year, will offer the option of sending a copy of the track to the user's desktop as well, Davidge said.

Operators set prices for the downloads, but so far European operators are pricing them at Euro 1.50 (US$2.00) per song, according to Davidge.

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