NetCom, the Norwegian unit of Swedish telecom giant Telia Sonera, is planning to steal Nokia's thunder with NetCom FreeMusic, a three-month trial to offer free unlimited mobile-music downloads.

NetCom FreeMusic, which launched June 2, is similar in concept to Nokia's Comes With Music service. The Nokia effort is due to kick off later this year, with its free offer lasting 12 months.

NetCom Freemusic, however, is a three-month pilot that gives subscribers access to a catalog of 50,000 tracks from Universal Music Group International.

The project involves a selection of handsets from several mobile manufacturers. Each device will come accompany a voucher with a text number that will direct users to a mobile Internet site.

Once they log in, customers can download as many of the participating tracks as they want. And they can keep the tracks indefinitely.

But the downloaded music will be locked to the handset and cannot be transferred to another phone or PC.

At the end of the three months, NetCom (one of Apple iPhone's distributors in Scandinavia) will examine consumers' response to the trial to determine how to proceed on a commercial basis.

NetCom FreeMusic is being hosted by Sweden-based PlusFourSix, the Nordic mobile-entertainment marketing company.

PlusFourSix has just launched a new division called Global Media Bank. It is designed specifically to optimize music content for mobile distribution, validate the metadata to ensure accurate information about the tracks, handle the different DRM (digital rights management) formats, and oversee the reporting to collecting rights societies.