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Thursday, September 22, 2005, 01:55 pm PT (04:55 pm ET)

Cingular and Apple may team on music download service

Cingular Wireless, the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, hopes to team with Apple next year when it launches a service that will let users download music on their mobile phone, a senior executive said on Thursday.

The service would likely charge "slightly higher" than what consumers pay for songs on Apple's iTunes service, Ralph de la Vega, chief operating officer at Cingular, said on the sidelines of a Goldman Sachs investor conference in New York.

Earlier this month, Apple along with Motorola introduced a new mobile handset called ROKR, which is the first cell phone to offer music playback through an embedded version of iTunes. Cingular is the first service provider to carry the phone.

Details regarding how the service would be run were still being worked out, according to Reuters, but de la Vega did say that he hoped it could be done in partnership with Apple.

Asked about demand for the ROKR, de la Vega said the company was making sales, but noted that "it takes a little while to build."

In the two weeks it has been available, the ROKR has failed to impress reviewers, consumers or the media. Fortune columnist Peter Lewis even went as far as calling the ROKR a "STINKR."

In his review of the phone, Lewis, like others, speculates that Apple may have intentionally crippled the ROKR.

"Apple has a good thing going with the iPod, and perhaps it didn't care to see the ROKR get good enough to kill that action."

If Apple and Cingular expanded their partnership to cover the new service, it would almost certainly yield the first mobile version of Apple's iTunes Music Store, allowing Cingular customers to shop for music from their mobile phone.