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Napster opens ring-tone download store

New service aimed at mobile phones could be bridge to wireless song downloads.

Digital music service Napster has unveiled a new store aimed at selling ring tones for mobile phones.

Created in partnership with Dwango Wireless, the Napstertones service offers most ring-tone downloads for prices between $1.99 and $2.99. For now, the service is available to Cingular and T-Mobile subscribers, but the companies hope to make it more easily accessible through phone carriers' networks later this year.

"Napster is dedicated to giving consumers the widest set of options to access the music they love in a way that fits their lifestyle," Napster CEO Chris Gorog said in a statement Monday. The service should give "millions of wireless subscribers a simple way to get a taste of the Napster experience," he added.

The service is Napster's first step away from ordinary music downloads, although executives have hinted they are interested in video services as well.

Ring tones--which are typically short snippets of songs or messages from artists--are a natural expansion for the company. Consumers around the world have spent hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the phone downloads. Record labels now see mobile phone subscribers as one of their biggest potential new markets.

The ring-tone service could also give Napster a bridge to selling full-length songs directly to mobile subscribers.