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Napster, Ericsson join forces for mobile music

Combined elements of both companies' technologies will offer a catalog of digital music to mobile phone customers around the world.

Napster and Swedish telecom company Ericsson will team up to offer a new digital music service aimed at mobile phone customers around the world.

The two companies said Tuesday that they will combine elements of both companies' technologies and digital music catalog to create a new product, offering iTunes-like song downloads and a monthly subscription plan. They will offer it to wireless carriers around the world over the next year, they said.

"With Napster we are uniquely positioned to deliver the easy to use, complete suite of music offerings our customers are asking for," said Ericsson Chief Executive Officer Carl-Henric Svanberg, calling Napster "the strongest digital music brand in the world."

The announcement could add fuel to a fast-growing mobile music sector, driven by high-speed network advances in Europe and Asia.

A growing number of operators are already offering their own digital music services, using start-ups such as Musiwave or Melodeo to power the stores. In Korea, the biggest mobile phone operator recently purchased a controlling stake in the country's biggest record label, in order to speed mobile music services.

Napster has made moves into the mobile space before, offering limited access to its service through some U.S. phone networks, and opening a ring-tone download store.

The new joint venture will have to convince mobile phone operators that its mix of integration between handsets and online services is superior to that of its rivals. However, Ericsson's long-established relationships with carriers could help Napster gain ground in what is new territory for a primarily PC-focused company.