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Preparations are under way for the March startup of digital radio broadcasting, a technology that will offer listeners both high-quality sound and songs now available only on cell phones, as well as data transmission of software and animation, among other services.

The new service, which will be offered by NHK and commercial radio stations, will vastly increase audio channels.

Mobile phone firms and electronics manufacturers are eagerly awaiting the start of digital radio, seeing it as a means of delivering not only CD-quality sound, but also animation and cell phone ringtones.

Tape-recorded digital format pilot broadcasts have been airing in the Tokyo and Osaka areas since October 2003.

Starting next year, digital radio broadcasts will include live programs, but it is likely to be used mainly for data broadcasting, such as software, digital maps and ringtones.

Another advantage of the new format is its ability to transmit large amounts of data to an unlimited number of people simultaneously at low cost using radio waves.

Radio stations will broadcast music digitally and listeners with a special receiver will be able to store it for later listening.

Cell phone companies have already set up a pricing and royalty payment system to address the copyright issue and are hoping the system will require only minor adjustments once the service begins.

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