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Downloads via GPRS

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02 today claims a world first for a music download service on GPRS, or 2.5G, networks.

It's early days yet - O2 is at test stage only, but it works like this: you choose your music from the latest chart hits - the service is aimed mostly at 16-24 year-olds - decide if you want to a free 30-second blast, or to purchase the song.

Either way, the music is retrieved by way of the GPRS-enabled handset and downloaded onto a "specially designed digital music player", capable of storing up to 100 tracks on a memory card.

The music starts playing within 12 seconds and download is completed within 90 seconds. SO how much will it cost? O2 hasn't decided yet - it will be testing "pricing strategies" in trials in its mobile networks in Germany and the UK. These kick off in May and a full-blown service is expected later in the year.

We guess the Siemens- designed music player is a small device as it attaches to the handset. Unclip it, and you have a "regular digital music player". 02 claims player has "excellent digital sound, similar to existing MP3 players". Similar? Does this mean "proprietary". And does this mean that playback is possible only for songs which have actually been stored on memory cards when using the service?

Customers can download the music - again - onto their PCs. And there will be an after-market, with additional memory cards for sale.

02 has assembled a long list of partners, including Siemens, obviously, MTV, which supplies the charts, BMG which will provide track listings and pre-releases, Chaoticom for file compression and and SDC (Secure Digital Container) AG for digital rights management. ®

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