MusicStation, a new subscription-funded mobile-music service said to be more consumer-friendly than Apple Inc.'s iPhone offering, is scheduled to start rolling out internationally in April.

Launched by privately owned London-based Omnifone, MusicStation is supported by a repertoire of 1 million-plus full tracks protected by digital-rights-management (DRM) software from the four major labels, plus local independents and content aggregators. The device uses the eAAC+ (enhanced advanced audio coding) DRM system.

MusicStation will be available from 23 wireless carriers with standard 2.5G and (high-speed third-generation) 3G networks, which serve an estimated combined 690 million customers in 40 territories worldwide.

It will take 30-35 seconds to download via 3G, and about two-and-a-half minutes on 2G.

The first operators to confirm their participation during the second quarter of 2007 are Norway's Telenor and South Africa-based Vodacom, which is partly owned by Vodafone, plus four others in Europe and Asia-Pacific, Omnifone said in a statement issued today (Feb. 12).

Subscribers can use any music-enabled cell phone to download and keep up to 4,000 tracks at a time; the songs expire when subscription stops. Furthermore, songs stored for more than six months are deleted automatically to make room for new downloads.

For £1.99 ($3.90) a week in the United Kingdom and €2.99 ($3.89) on continental Europe, subscribers have unlimited access to music whether they use pre-pay mobile services or are contracted to the mobile networks. The weekly fee includes data charges while listening to the music.

A premium service for £2.99 ($5.90) and €3.99 ($5.19) a week will give subscribers simultaneous dual delivery to handsets and to their PC or Mac computers.

Omnifone CEO Rob Lewis says the labels collect the largest part of the revenue share, followed by the operators, with the remainder going to Omnifone.

MusicStation's proprietary software will come embedded in handsets made by leading manufacturers, including Motorola, Nokia, LG, Sony-Ericsson and Samsung Electronics.

That software will feature a social-networking service called Buzz. Described by Lewis as a "mini MySpace," Buzz enables MusicStation customers to recommend tracks to friends. And as long as those friends are MusicStation subscribers, they will be able to download the recommended songs.

"Network operators are concerned about content as a long term goal, especially at a time when voice and text revenues are declining," he tells Billboard.biz. "They know consumers will go into shops wanting iPhones, and they concerned that this will take them out of the mobile content game. They don't want to be dependent on Apple; they need to remain center stage."