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Cingular sings along to mobile radio

Cell phone carrier has teamed with MobiTV to offer about 40 channels of streaming music.

Cingular Wireless has begun offering a streaming music service as it continues to expand beyond basic voice calling.

The cell phone carrier, which is owned by SBC Communications and BellSouth, is working with MobiTV to offer the service. Cingular already offers MobiTV's streaming video service over its network. The music service costs $6.99 per month, plus airtime, and offers about 40 channels of commercial-free music, Cingular said Monday.

Cingular and other carriers such as Sprint Nextel and Verizon Communications are moving beyond voice services. As pricing for voice minutes declines, mobile carriers view entertainment services like music and TV as crucial to their future. The sale of ring tones, which is the fastest-growing segment of the carrier market, serves as a promising model.

Cingular has already made inroads into the music market with a deal it announced in September with Motorola, whose phone lineup includes some handsets equipped to play songs from Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store.

Meanwhile, Cingular rival Sprint Nextel has launched its own music download service, which lets people purchase songs directly from their cell phones. The carrier is charging $2.50 per song. Sprint also offers streaming radio through a deal with Sirius Satellite Radio. Sprint charges $7 per month, plus airtime, for access to the satellite channels.

Cingular's new mobile radio service is initially available on three phones, Nokia's 6620 and Sony Ericsson's S710 and Z500a. The carrier plans to add more phones later.