Apple faces fresh competition from mobile phone network providers in the US with news that Verizon will launch its own store this month.

The store will let users download songs directly to their phones and will use Microsoft software. It launches January 16 and will be called the V Cast Music Service. It will have a 500,000-strong song catalogue on launch, with songs costing 99 cents (to a PC) or $1.99 (if streamed directly to a phone).

When they download to the phone, customers will get two copies of the song, one for the phone and one for the PC, according to Verizon. In addition, users will be able to synchronise songs from the PC to the phone via USB.

The store will include music from all four majors - Warner, EMI, Universal and Sony BMG.

The service was demonstrated during a CES keynote address by Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications. It will be available over Verizon's cellular network to 150 million US residents.

Microsoft played a vital role in the creation of V Cast Music, thanks to its DRM technology, which Verizon and Microsoft executives said was crucial to being able to offer one of the service's main benefits: there is no limit on how many devices to which a user can transfer the song files.

"There are no boundaries for these downloaded music tracks and no limit to the songs you can download to your phone. The only limitation is the amount of memory on your phone," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.