Omnifone, the mobile-music service provider out to challenge Apple's iPhone, entered the Asia-Pacific region live today (Oct. 22) via a deal with wireless carrier 3 Hong Kong.

The 3 MusicStation, which Omnifone claims is "the first unlimited mobile-music download service" in the region, is available to 3 Hong Kong's 2 million-plus customers for HK$12 ($1.55) a week.

London-based Omnifone, whose Asian subsidiary is headquartered in Hong Kong, says it sees the southern Chinese city as a springboard for entering the wider Chinese market.

The deal "enables us to make the first step in bringing MusicStation to what will be the world's most important digital music market," Omnifone chief executive Rob Lewis said in the statement.

The Hong Kong price point is less than half of the £1.99 ($4.00) price in the U.K., where the service will launch with Vodafone next month, and in Sweden, the first country to offer MusicStation in a deal with Telenor, for SKr25 ($3.90) a week.

The lower Hong Kong price point aims to enable the service "to tackle the high rate of piracy in the region," an Omnifone spokesperson says.

The subscription service will give customers access to more than 1 million international and domestic tracks licensed from the four majors and local independents.

Currently, 14 Sony Ericsson and Nokia high-speed 3G or 3.5G handsets are compatible, with more devices to be added in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.

To trigger the service, customers can either purchase handsets with the pre-installed software, or download the software over the network.

Users can download and play any track, share it with other Omnifone users, discover new music, and use 3 MusicStation's social-networking facilities to create a community of friends.

"The widespread acceptance of the mobile phone as a device to experience music in the region is providing a great opportunity for the industry to get a better sense of the true value of music," said Sandy Monteiro, senior VP (ASEAN), and VP digital of South East Asia excluding China, at Universal Music Group International. "The arrival of 3 MusicStation is timely."

Omnifone claims the move gives it a headstart over the iPhone, which Apple is not expected to roll out in Asia until 2008.