Yet another wireless operator has launched an over-the-air full-song music download service. This time it's Helio, a startup carrier that went live only last year, which says its mobile music service will be the "corner record shop" to other operators' "department store."

The Helio Music service sells individual tracks for $1.99 if downloaded to the phone, or 99 cents if to the PC. Songs downloaded only to the PC can be transferred to the phone afterwards via a USB connection.

All four major record labels have licensed music to the service.

What makes the Helio service stand out is the ability for users to share and recommend tracks to each other as part of the operator's "Gift & Beg" feature. As in any other type of content bought via the Helio service, users can "gift" songs to other Helio members by purchasing the track and instructing the service to download to their friends phone. Similarly, other members can "beg" others to buy music for them.

Additionally, members can register for "Artist Alerts," a feature which will send a text message to subscribers whenever new content from a specific artist is available via the store.

The Helio Music service is available only on the new Drift handset, which is one of three the carrier offers. The others are the Kickflip and the Hero.

Unlike most wireless operators, Helio does not own or operate its own network. It instead rents airtime from Sprint. Amp'd Mobile is another such operator, which licenses its network from Verizon Wireless. Both have a business model that focused more on media and entertainment content than voice phone calls.
Helio says it will break the 100,000 subscriber milestone in the second quarter, and claims an average revenue per user of more than $100 a month, $25 of which comes from data charges-nearly double the industry average.

In addition to the music store, Helio also unveiled a ringback tone service, which it dubs AnswerRings, available to subscribers for 99 cents a month and $1.99 per download.

For more information, check out Helio's press release.

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