Vodafone is claiming it will be the first global mobile network operator to offer music free of DRM when it makes the switch to a large proportion of its Vodafone Music Store catalog for mobile and PC by the summer.

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Music have all agreed to the format conversion. The remaining major label, Warner Music, and all independent labels on Vodafone's catalog are yet to confirm participation. Tracks from these labels will remain available on the site in the original DRM format.

Tracks can be transferred to any digital device owned by the customer, including mobile phones and PCs. As well as this, Vodafone is allowing customers to upgrade previously purchased tracks to be DRM-free at no extra charge within the existing download allowance.

A company statement confirmed that Germany, Italy, the U.K., Spain and New Zealand will be the first territories to roll out DRM-free services. Australia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and Turkey will follow "in due course," along with services on Vodafone's partner networks in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Iceland, Slovenia and Switzerland.

"Music is central to many of our customers' lives," said Pieter Knook, Internet services director at Vodafone, in a statement. "By Vodafone pioneering DRM-free on mobile and offering MP3s on PC, they will now have the freedom to download tracks from their favorite artists without any device restrictions allowing them to experience their music however they want it, wherever they are."

"Vodafone has been a business partner of Universal Music for six years," added Rob Wells, SVP, Digital, at Universal Music Group International. "This new deal shows how serious Vodafone is about music, and opens up new opportunities for both companies - but, more importantly, for consumers and artists."

"We are thrilled that this agreement will provide Vodafone's millions of customers in Europe with access to music by our popular local artists and global superstars," added Thomas Hesse, president, global digital business, U.S. sales, corporate strategy, Sony Music Entertainment. "Vodafone's convenient mobile and PC solution gives fans another great way to integrate music into their daily lives and forge an even stronger connection with the artists they love."

"EMI has long been a proponent of DRM free music because of the benefits it brings to fans and so we are very supportive of this initiative from Vodafone," commented Douglas Merrill, EMI Music's COO of new music and president, digital business. "With its international reach and commitment to music, Vodafone is taking a major step forward for our industry by offering consumers more flexibility and choice."

The Vodafone Music Store, powered by RealNetworks, is available exclusively to Vodafone customers. It has over a million tracks in its catalog, available to purchase as single tracks or album bundles. All purchases can be dual-delivered to a mobile and PC free of charge.