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O2 to offer entire Napster catalogue for mobile download

In an exclusive deal, mobile operator O2 will begin to offer Napster's entire music catalogue for over-the-air downloads to subscribers' handsets, beginning from this weekend

UK phone network O2 has announced today that it has partnered exclusively with online music vendor Napster to provide a la carte, over-the-air music downloads to O2 customers, direct to their mobile phones. Napster's entire 5 million track catalogue will be available for download from this weekend and includes the catalogues of every major record label.

While many O2 customers enjoy free handsets, those who spent the £269 premium to buy the O2-exclusive iPhone will not be able to use this service, however. UK Apple devotees will have to wait for over-the-air music downloads.

Songs will be accessed through O2 Active, the network's mobile portal, which cannot be used on the iPhone because the handset doesn't support WAP. The service will be available to both contract and pay as you go customers, and your songs will still play if you cancel your contract.

Individual tracks will cost 99p, with data charges for each song included in the cost of the download. For a limited promotional period of three months, O2 will offer five tracks for £4. A Napster spokesperson couldn't confirm or deny any future plans to offer deals on complete album downloads.

After downloading a song to one of 35 compatible handsets, an identical copy is sent to a user's email account that can be played on a PC or moved to a compatible MP3 player, and are identical to files downloaded using Napster's traditional a la carte service. All songs will be protected by Microsoft's Windows Media DRM, PlaysForSure, and are encoded at 128kbps WMA.

For those of you keeping track of movements in the mobile music downloads space, you'll notice the O2/Napster service is very different to Omnifone's MusicStation Max, which is due to launch later this year, offering unlimited access to 1.5 million tracks from all four major labels for a fee built into the cost of the handset. Napster also has deals with Sonos to distribute its entire catalogue to subscribers who own Sonos music systems.

So will you pay 99p a pop for access to Napster's entire catalogue? Are you a disgruntled iPhowner? Leave a comment below or visit our MP3 forum over yonder. -Nate Lanxon