Downloading music directly over a cell-phone network to a mobile phone has become a reality in the United Kingdom and Ireland with the launch this week of the new SX1 device, developed by handset manu

Downloading music directly over a cell-phone network to a mobile phone has become a reality in the United Kingdom and Ireland with the launch this week of the new SX1 device, developed by handset manufacturer Siemens in a partnership with British operator O2.

The SX1 comprises a pre-installed O2 digital player in a mobile phone. It was first introduced to the German market in June.

Siemens SX1 customers in the United Kingdom subscribing to "O2 Music" can store and play paid-for full tracks that have been downloaded over O2's network straight to the handset. Users can also search for and sample free 30-second clips. The service launched Aug. 1.

Roughly 100,000 titles are available via what the company claims to be Europe's "first over the air" music-download service. Full tracks are licensed from Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music International, BMG and members of British indie label’s trade body the Association of Independent Music (AIM).

The songs are protected and securely transmitted over the O2's network with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology from Basel-based Secure Digital Container (SDC) in Switzerland.

Users can buy catalog tracks for £1 ($1.82) and current hits for £1.50 ($2.73). The handset, which can store up to 120 tracks of music, costs £79.99 ($145.90) in the U.K. and €149.95 ($180.85) in Germany. Download payments are logged on SX1 users' monthly mobile-phone bills.

This month's launch is the first step toward a full European roll-out. O2 Music's Active Music Download offering has been available in Germany since November 2003.

At that time, only O2 Germany subscribers had access to the O2 Digital Music Player (DMP), another Siemens-produced device. This was a separate hardware that had to be attached to a cell phone to access the music.