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Cell phone music on tour in Japan

The first service that lets people download music files to a cell phone hits the market, but will people pay for it?

The first service that lets people download music files to a cell phone has hit Japan, but will people pay for it?

On Monday, Japanese telephone giant NTT DoCoMo started selling a handset in Japan that is capable of receiving music files for $245 (30,275 yen). Consumers will also have to pay a monthly fee to NTT DoCoMo of $1.60 and then another $2.83 for every title loaded onto their phones, according to the company.

Downloading music to cell phones is one of the much-hyped new services expected from the next generation of high-speed phones that carriers are beginning to offer at the end of this year.

Consumers are expected to spend $7 billion a year to download music, according to a report released Monday by Webnoize, a digital music industry watchdog.

But the price will have to come down before people will use it, according to Webnoize senior analyst Matt Bailey. Fifty million people are expected to regularly download music, with 28 million in Europe and 7 million both in the United States and Japan.

It will cost about $13 to download a music file to a cell phone, Bailey said. But that price could drop to about $3.30 per song as the technology improves and telephone companies finish building the networks for higher-speed phone systems.

"At that point, it starts getting pretty affordable," he said. "The price to transfer a song will drop quicker than anybody thinks."

Consumers won't be sacrificing much if they use their phones to listen to their digitized music instead of devices like MP3 players specially designed for such purposes, he said.

"Music is actually a very good potential for (cell phones)," Bailey said. "You're getting a very comparable service to what consumers are used to now."

There is a large market for such a service among the college student set, according to a Webnoize's survey of about 5,000 students.

Nearly three-quarters of the students responding said they would be willing to pay a telephone company extra money to download music onto their phones. About 17 percent said they would be willing to pay an extra $20 for that kind of service.

By comparison, just 9 percent of the students said they would be willing to pay an extra $20 to download videos onto phones, another of the promised applications of the higher-speed phone networks.