NTT DoCoMo, Matsushita Tie on Music Service

TOKYO (01/28/2000) - NTT Mobile Communications Network Inc., the Japanese cellular operator better known as NTT DoCoMo, is teaming up with Matsushita Communications Industrial Co. (MCI), on a new service to deliver music via mobile telephones.

The two will form a joint venture, Air Media Inc., in which NTT DoCoMo will take a 51 percent share and MCI will hold the remaining 49 percent stake, both companies said in a statement yesterday. MCI is a unit of Tokyo-based Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., best known for its Panasonic brand.

Trials of the new music service are due to begin in April, the companies said, with commercial service launching in late 2000.

The two plan to launch the trial service on NTT DoCoMo's PHS (personal handyphone system) network, a lower-powered, cheaper cellular technology used in Japan. While the number of subscribers to the network is smaller than that of NTT DoCoMo's conventional cellular network, the service can support data transmission at speeds up to 64K bits per second (bps), making it a perfect testbed for the system.

Matsushita will make a combined PHS telephone and audio player for the service that will be based on EMDLB (electronic music distribution licensing body), a music distribution system being promoted by Matsushita with AT&T Corp., Universal Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group in the U.S.. This will be its first use in Japan.

The Air Media venture stems from a series of trials announced by the NTT DoCoMo and MCI in September.

The partners are establishing the company now with an eye on the launch of NTT DoCoMo's third-generation W-CDMA (wideband code division multiple access) network in 2001. That service will be able to transmit data at speeds of 384K bps, making downloading multi-megabyte-sized audio files a breeze.

The companies are expecting that service to attract some 2 million customers within the first five years of service.

NTT DoCoMo is also separately working with Sony Corp. and IBM Corp. on trials for a similar service that combines IBM's EMMS (electronic music management system) technology with Sony's OpenMG copyright protection system and the company's MemoryStick memory card system.

The mobile operator may launch a similar joint venture with IBM and Sony later this year if these trials prove successful, NTT DoCoMo spokeswoman Yuki Isono said today.

NTT Mobile Communications Network, in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.nttdocomo.com/. Matsushita Communications Industrial Inc., in Osaka, can be found online at http://www.mci.panasonic.co.jp/.

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