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Three joins Nokia's music club

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Mobile operator 3 will become the first UK network to endorse Nokia's troubled music program "Comes With Music", industry sources confirmed today. Reports surfaced yesterday that 3 will offer the bundle with a N95-8GB model phone.

Nokia launched the innovative program this month without the endorsement of the five major mobile networks. So far, Carphone Warehouse is the exclusive Nokia high street presence for Comes With Music.

Comes With Music reportedly bundles "free and unlimited" music downloads with selected Nokia handsets. But actually, it doesn't. Downloads are limited to 120 per year*, and there's an upfront charge of £129.95 at Carphone Warehouse. So it more accurately resembles the Britannia CD club model: pay up front and get some albums.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice the weasel words in Nokia's press release:

"Comes With Music offers one year of unlimited access to the entire Nokia Music Store catalogue…"

But access to the Store is not the same as unlimited downloads, of course. Asked about this, Nokia's EVP of entertainment Tero Ojanpera repeated that unlimited meant unlimited access, not downloads.

The reason? Last year Nokia was mugged by Universal Music, the first major to sign up to CWM, and the biggest record label in the world. The deal left Nokia with unlimited liabilities over a certain number of downloads per month. Once bitten, twice more careful.

The move doesn't augur a change in Three's recent strategic shift to promoting practical communications over entertainment. When the Hutch-owned network launched it plugged its movie and sport features. Today it wants you to use Skype and IM.

The Britannia Music Club went titsup last year. ®

* Footnote: Carphone's PR firm Freud dispute reports of the 120 annual limit, telling us that "downloads are unlimited for the first year and after that year you can continue to keep everything that you downloaded indefinitely." However, Carphone doesn't police usage - Nokia does. And the terms of the "acceptable use policy" state that Nokia in cases of "... abusive or excessive downloading, Nokia may contact you and ask you to moderate your usage. If you fail to comply with such a request, Nokia reserves the right to restrict or terminate your use of the Service."

In a statement, Nokia says: ""Comes With Music means that when you buy a Nokia Comes With Music edition device like the Nokia 5310, you get unlimited access to the millions of tracks in the Nokia Music catalogue and once downloaded, they are yours to keep. Once you have bought a Nokia Comes With Music device, there is no per track cost for these unlimited downloads and no maximum of 120 tracks per year as referenced in your story".

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