Verizon Wireless today entered the mobile-music market, joining the likes of competitor Sprint Nextel and Apple in introducing a service that will let you download music directly to your phone or straight to your PC.
The number-two U.S. wireless carrier has hooked up with Microsoft to create the V Cast Music service, which officially will launch on January 16 and run primarily over Verizon's cellular broadband network. The downloads will be based on Windows Media technology.
One Million Songs
Customers buying songs from V Cast will pay 99 cents for purchases from the PC or $1.99 to download the songs directly to a mobile phone. Those who purchase songs will get two licensed copies -- one for phone playback and one for the PC. Entire albums also can be purchased through a computer connection.
The catalog of music will include some one million tunes, with selections from major music labels, including Warner Music Group, EMI Music, Universal, and Sony/BMG. A selection of music-enabled phones specifically designed to be compatible with the new service will be available at its launch. These phones include the LG VX8100 and the Samsung a950.
The V Cast service also will let you take digital music already downloaded to your PC and sync it with your handset via a USB connection.
Paying the Price
Music is an attractive offering for wireless operators looking to reap a return on the investment in next-generation, high-speed data networks, although carriers might have a tough time making up ground on Apple's dominant iTunes platform.
In October, Sprint Nextel launched the Sprint Music Store, another service that lets you download songs directly to mobile handsets through wireless connections. Sprint customers also get two copies of each song, and the cost is $2.50 per selection.
Carriers contend that customers want the convenience of being able to download their music over the air instead of having to connect the phone to a PC for music transfer, but Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman suggested that the cost per song of these new services is too high to attract a significant following.
"There is already entrenched competition in the digital-music space," he said, citing the popularity of the iTunes store and the free, albeit illegal file-sharing networks. Dual-delivery is a good concept, said Goodman, but he pointed out that music fans have come to expect that their downloads will support multiple platforms and won't pay more for the privilege.