NTT DoCoMo to offer digital music via cellphone

Joint venture with Matsushita to launch next autumn

Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo yesterday said it plans to launch a cellular wireless digital music distribution service in partnership with consumer electronics giant Matsushita. NTT DoCoMo first mooted such a service back in November when it began hawking a reference platform around consumer electronics companies. Clearly Matsushita has taken the plunge, and the two have formed a jointly-owned subsidiary, Air Media, to commercialise NTT DoCoMo's technology. Air Media will be 51 per cent owned by NTT DoCoMo, the rest by Matsushita. Air Media is expected to begin offering music to the public in the autumn following a trial run commencing in April. Air Media will initially use NTT DoCoMo's 64kbps Personal Handyphone Service, upgrading to CDMA next year, following the cellular technology's roll-out throughout Japan. Matsushita will contribute the EMDLB music distribution, copyright protection and compression system it's currently co-developing with AT&T, Bertelsmann Music Group and Universal. The Air Media system will download tracks and samples to Secure Digital Cards (SDC), the copy-protected Compact Flash-style memory card format devised by SanDisk, Toshiba and Matsushita. The move sets SDC head to head with rival format Secure Multimedia Card (aka MMC) from Sanyo, Fujistu and Hitachi, which is also being touted as a system for storing cellphone-downloaded music tracks. The MMC guys' approach uses Fujitsu's UDAC-MB (Universal Distribution with Access Control -- Media Base) content delivery and protection system, which can support any compression scheme, including MP3. Sanyo's contribution is to manufacture phones that support the cards, while Hitachi will produce Secure MMC units. ®

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