Napster Inc. on Monday launched its long-awaited mobile phone offering, Napster Mobile, in conjunction with European telecom giant Ericsson. The service is available in select markets in Europe, North America and Asia through agreements with local carriers.


The L.A.-based digital music subscription service announced its partnership with Ericsson last June, and launched it at a mobile telephone conference this week in Barcelona.


Napster Mobile is being offered in the U.S. by SunCom Wireless, a small mobile carrier with about 1 million customers in the southeastern United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ericsson will provide back office billing and administration of the program.


The service allows users to download music, art and video content, with files automatically sent to their PCs. According to the companies, the Napster Mobile service has all the features of Napster's PC-based service, allowing users to create playlists, burn CDs and transfer songs.


Napster has been struggling in the crowded online music realm. It recently passed the 500,000 subscriber mark, while key competitor, RealNetwork's Rhapsody service, has more than 1.3 million subscribers.


Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes still dominates with 80 percent of the market, though no service has harnessed the mobile phone market. iTunes joined forces with Motorola Inc. and Cingular Wireless to offer the Rokr cell phone last September, which holds 100 songs, but it received a lukewarm reception from customers and critics.

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