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Carriers' Pockets Jingle To The Sound Of Music

People with handsets spent $251 million last year on music tracks, ring tones, and ring-back tones, compared with $12.4 million in 2004, ABI Research said.

Worldwide revenue from music downloaded onto mobile phones soared last year, and the trend is expected to continue over the next five years, a market research firm said Tuesday.

People with handsets spent $251 million last year on music tracks, ring tones and ring-back tones, compared with $12.4 million in 2004, ABI Research said. By 2011, mobile phone subscribers are expected to spend $9.3 billion.

ABI expects over-the-air downloads to be more successful overseas, particularly in Asia, than in North America, where there's a high penetration of home computers used to download music.

In Japan, for example, Apple Computer Inc. didn't open a computer-centric iTunes music store on the Web until the fourth quarter of last year. Meanwhile, Japanese telecommunications company KDDI Corp. sold 30 million music tracks in 2005 in Japan alone, ABI said.

Prerequisites for future success in the music-download business include 3G networks capable of supporting the product, agreements between carriers and record labels and a distribution system that ensures users are paying for the downloads, ABI said. In addition, copyright-protection software must allow mobile phone users to move tracks easily between devices, and the handsets themselves must have sufficient memory and feature sets to support music downloads and transfers.

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