New IDC research claims the US wireless full track downloads market will be worth $1.2 billion by 2009.

If true, that's good news for mobile telecommunications companies, who hope to deliver shareholder value to investors by adding music downloads to their product range.

IDC expects the US wireless full-track music market to attract over 50 million full-track customers and subscribers by 2009.

The future of music distribution?

"IDC believes that online and wireless music services may represent the music industry's best long-term prospects for reversing decline and promoting growth, and that these new services will ultimately be the future of recorded music distribution," said Susan Kevorkian, IDC senior research analyst, consumer markets.

The analysts note that full track download services such as these have "yet to launch in the US", stymied by the lack of available handsets and 3G networks, the complexity of digital rights management (DRM), competition from incumbent services, and business pricing models and practices.

IDC observes an "opportunity" for such services to offer bundled services, such as ring tones, videos and artist-specific information alerts.

IDC's assessment emerges as speculation continues to grow that claims Apple may launch its own virtual mobile network, and as the company prepares to launch its "iTunes phone" next month.