Napster Inc. and Ericsson AB announced Wednesday they are launching a digital music service for mobile phones, a move seen as an effort to compete against Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPods and iTunes download service.

The service, which will allow both individual music downloads and subscription access, will let users download L.A.-based Napster's music files to their handsets or other mobile devices. It's set to go live in Europe within the next 12 months and will initially be offered to operators in selected markets in Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America.

"Ericsson's world-leading wireless and telecommunications solutions experience, along with their exceptional client base, make them the ideal partner to deepen Napster's presence in the global mobile arena," said Chris Gorog, Napster's chairman and CEO, in a statement.

The deal comes as wireless providers and other companies are partnering to deliver music, video and ring tones to mobile phones to cut down Apple's dominance in the online music arena. Yahoo! Inc. and RealNetworks Inc. now allow customers to listen to, but not own, thousands of songs for a monthly fee. And on Tuesday, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. arranged a mobile music partnership with Sprint Corp. to make some of its music channels available to Sprint customers. Apple, meanwhile, is working with Motorola to make phones that can download songs.

Napster's shares settled up 2.3 percent to $4.43 on Wednesday.

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