Sprint debuts streaming radio service


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sprint Nextel Corp. has teamed with Pandora Media Inc., a popular online music service, to deliver personalized streaming radio to its mobile phone users.

Pandora is a free Internet-based radio service that lets people create stations based on their favorite artists and other songs it finds that match in style. The music service has attracted 6.9 million users since launching in November 2005 and was recently banned, along with a dozen other popular media Web sites, such as YouTube and MySpace, from the Defense Department's computer system because of network bandwidth concerns.

Pandora's Internet radio service now will be available beyond computers -- on Sprint beginning Wednesday. It will be free for the first 30 days of use but will cost an additional $2.99 per month with a Sprint data plan. The service will work initially on five phone models but will expand to all high-speed data phones sold by Sprint by the end of June, the company said.

Sprint is the first mobile carrier to offer Pandora, the companies said. But if the Oakland-based startup has its way, other cellular networks will follow suit.

"We knew that if we wanted to be radio with a capital 'R,' we have to be everywhere, and not just on the Internet," said Pandora founder Tim Westergren. "We knew we had to make it mobile."

Pandora is expanding to other devices as well. Also starting Wednesday, its music streams could be directly tapped from Sonos Inc.'s home digital music system.

Pandora, however, faces a potentially life-threatening expense of music royalty fees that a panel of copyright judges recently approved for Internet radio providers. The new royalty rates are set to kick in July 15 but are being contested by a coalition of companies, including Pandora, Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

"If those rates don't change, business doesn't make sense for us anymore," Westergren said.
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