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AT&T tests Net music delivery

Reflecting ISPs' growing interest in e-commerce, AT&T is testing its A2B Music platform, delivering a compressed and encrypted single to participants.

AT&T will begin testing its A2B Music platform today, delivering a compressed and encrypted single from the band The Verve Pipe to trial participants.

The trial is the latest example of Internet service providers (ISPs), and specifically AT&T, focusing more and more on electronic commerce. Many online businesses are teaming up with ISPs to take advantage of their large distribution channels. AT&T has already inked deals with online consumer services NetGrocer and Auto-by-Tel for its AT&T Market Square online commerce service.

The A2B Music platform uses compression technology to allow a three-minute song to be downloaded in nine minutes over a 28.8-kpbs modem. A2B encrypts the data to protect against piracy, while allowing users to choose between single, multiple, or shared use of the song being distributed.

According to Brian Monahan, a spokesman for A2B, the platform offers musicians more control than current distribution channels over who has access to their music.

"Musicians have a right to sell their product with the assurance that they're not giving up their rights," Monahan said. "It will give consumers a lot of options, too."

Bands and music labels will be able to better control how much freedom consumers have to copy their material. Flexible licensing will allow some songs to be available for personal use only, while others will be available for multiple users.

Currently, The Verve Pipe is the only band in the trial. A2B is aiming to position itself as the premier online music distributor in consumers' minds two to three years down the road, when consumer bandwidth is larger and people are more familiar with electronic commerce.

"As people get faster pipes into the Internet, eventually this will be virtually instantaneous," Monahan said.

A2B also is planning to incorporate what it calls "micro-billing" into the site. Because many of the products offered through the platform will be single songs, AT&T is looking to leverage its existing telephone billing capabilities, which include charging customers a few cents through their credit cards or AT&T bills.

Trial users can download the single at either the A2B or Verve Pipe Web sites.