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Japan's NTT to trial digital music service next month

Four formats supported - MP3 not one of them

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NTT Communications, part of Japan's biggest telco, will begin a trial run for its upcoming Arcstar digital music delivery service on 19 April, the company said yesterday. The public test programme is due to run until 31 July, with the full commercial service, available only to Japanese consumers, kicking into action early August. Partnering with NTT are nine Japanese recording companies, including Time Warner's local operation. NTT will host the entire system, but users will visit and download music from each company's own, individual Web site. The tracks the recording companies provide will ship in any of four formats: Liquid Audio, Microsoft's MS Audio, MuSIC from MBeat.com and NTT's own SolidAudio. Just to make things tricky, each format requires its own back-end rights management and copyright protection mechanisms, but the trial is likely to focus on ways of integrating them to simplify the system before its commercial launch in the summer. NTT Communications plan parallels that of fellow NTT off-shoot, mobile phone operator DoCoMo, which is developing a service to offer MP3 music tracks via cellphones. That scheme is being rolled out in conjunction with music giants Universal and BMG, and consumer electronics biggie Matsushita. ® Related Stories NTT DoCoMo to offer digital music via cellphone Samsung demos MP3 cellphone German firm registers MP3 as trademark Toshiba eyes March for delayed digital music player launch

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