MusicStation, the international "all-you-can-eat" mobile-phone music service positioned to compete against Apple's new iPhone device, has gone live.

Operated by U.K.-based Omnifone, in collaboration with France-based mobile-music specialist Musiwave, MusicStation kicks off today in Sweden.

Following agreements with 30 mobile carriers, Omnifone plans to roll out MusicStation to 20-plus other European, Asia-Pacific and African markets by the end of 2007.

MusicStation offers consumers access to more than 1 million tracks from the four major labels, leading European independents like the U.K.-based Beggars Group and Vital:PIAS Digital, and mobile-content aggregators such as VidZone Digital Media.

Moreover, major handset makers, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG and Samsung, have agreed to pre-install the MusicStation software and icon on up to 100 million current and next-generation high-speed handsets that are gradually being shipped to retailers this year.

Alternatively, consumers without pre-installed devices can download the free MusicStation software via the network. Already, about 75% of mobile devices in Europe are compatible with the service. The company hopes to expand to 100 million phones.

In Sweden, the service will be available for SKr25 ($3.54) a week for unlimited downloads via pan-Nordic carrier Telenor. In other European markets, the average weekly fee is €2.99 ($3.97). There is no extra charge for transmitting data, including full tracks.

Subscribers also have access to news, concert dates, new releases, playlists; they can also recommend songs, share tracks and other content with other subscribers.

When subscription stops, the downloaded songs become unplayable thanks to Omnifone's "label-approved" proprietorial software. And if customers lose their handsets, their collection will be stored by the network until the phone is replaced. However, songs will not be transferable to PCs or burned to blank discs.

"We believe that by providing consumers with the ultimate music freedom of unlimited access to music, wherever a user is, on whatever phone they buy, MusicStation is delivering the most compelling consumer proposition in digital music today," said Omnifone CEO Rob Lewis in a statement.

According to an Omnifone spokesperson, the weekly fee will be divided into three parts "with the labels getting the biggest share, followed by the operators and we get the smallest share."

Launching now means MusicStation pre-empts the launch of Apple's much heralded iPhones, which is set for a June 29 launch in the United States and a European launch next year.

The spokesperson also points out that Omnifone will fill a gap in the digital music sector in Asian markets, such as Hong Kong and the Philippines, where there is no Apple's iTunes service.

Though there are plans to launch MusicStation in the United States, the spokesperson said Omnifone targeted Europe and Asia-Pacific markets first as part of a "land grab" to establish relationships with operators and make use of their existing facilities.

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