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O2 UK has signed a deal to give its customers access to the Napster (Light) music download service, though punters will have to pay an additional 20 pence to use the service from their mobiles.

The service will be available on 30 handsets though the O2 Active portal, with tracks costing 99p each and being delivered in two versions, one for the phone and one for the desktop. Ninety-nine pence is 20 pence more than you'd pay for the same tracks through Napster Light, though you wouldn't get the music on your phone.

The bill-by-the-track method contrasts with Napster's preferred subscription offering, a monthly rate for all the music you want which disappears when you stop paying - "have everything, own nothing" as the company puts it.

The subscription model has also been adopted by Vodafone for its service, though it also provides a "Full Track" service which is almost identical to the O2/Napster offering - though with only a million tracks compared to Napster's five million.

O2 has been working with Napster in Ireland for the last few years, and in Germany new O2 ADSL subscribers get a year of Napster's "To Go" service free.

The UK offer of 99p compares badly with Apple's iTunes store. At 79p per track it's available to O2 customers who've got an iPhone and also allows both desktop and mobile playback. O2 doesn't make any money out of iTunes, so it's not really in its interest to promote it, and it makes sense for it to have a competitive offering even if it's the hardware that locks punters into iTunes.

Most operators are hoping to make money out of selling music over their networks, which is ironic as their selling of airtime to da yoof has probably done more damage to the music industry than any number of pirated downloads. ®

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