updated 6/28/2004 9:49:00 PM ET 2004-06-29T01:49:00

T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom's mobile arm, on Monday urged rival mobile operators, handset manufacturers and record companies to adopt a standard platform for the fledgling mobile music market.

The company underlined the importance of industry collaboration as it launched its suite of so-called Ear Phones across Europe. These allow customers to browse, download and store CD- quality digital music in their mobiles -- sometimes up to a fortnight before songs are released through other platforms.

The latest effort by the industry to develop the mobile music market as the music industry reinvents its distribution model involves a collaboration between the German mobile operator, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music and all major mobile phone handset manufacturers.

"We need one standard platform and we need to have that standard reconciled with the music industry," said Nikesh Arora, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer. "As you introduce propriety standards you need to create rival systems and rival systems stunt the growth of the industry."

Unlike Apple's successful iTunes service, Ear Phones users will not need to connect their mobiles to a PC in order to download music. Its process will take 30 seconds.

Although Ear Phones will initially offer just 90- to 120-second mixes of music tracks from a library of 500 tracks, this is expected to grow to 250,000 full-length tracks by Christmas following developments in bandwidth and digital rights management software for protecting copyright.

Boyd Muir, executive vice-president of Universal Music International, called on Monday's Ear Phones launch "a defining moment in terms of music becoming more mobile".

Mr Arora stressed that the service was not designed to make Apple's iPod portable digital music device extinct but said the two services were "complimentary".

He argued the mobile phone was a ubiquitous device that few people left home without, pointing out that while there were about 6m digital music players in the world - half of which were iPods - there are more than 1bn GSM mobile phones. Ear Phone handsets will launch at about £29.99 ($54.78) for contract customers, with the sale of 4m targetted by the end of 2006. Each track will cost ?1.50 ($1.80).

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.


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