French Broadband Entices With Unlimited Music; Universal Partners With Neuf Cegetel

French telcos Neuf Cegetel and France Telecom are enticing broadband subscribers with free unlimited digital music downloads. The country’s second-place Neuf Cegetel (EPA: NEUF) has struck a deal with Universal Music to offer unlimited downloads to customers subscribed to its EUR 29.90 ($39.35) triple-play internet, telephone and TV bundle, MarketWatch reports. Starting this week, the free downloads can be made from one of nine pre-specified musical genres, but customers can download from any genre for an extra EUR 4.99 ($6.72) a month.

In response, Orange parent France Telecom (NYSE:FTE) was quick to tell AFP it, too, will offer unlimited free music downloads along with its triple-play bundle, promising a wider selection – but not until launch in H1 2008. The Neuf Cegetel deal sees Vivendi (EPA:VIV) flex its multimedia muscles: Universal’s French parent has a majority stake in SFR, which in turn controls 40.5 percent of Neuf Cegetel, so it has several assets to leverage, and music is clearly amongst the most attractive. Universal is testing the monthly subscription model at a time when it’s also trying to win greater flexibility for its iTunes Store distribution.

Meanwhile, in an experiment running to the end of the year, the label is making its catalog available DRM-free to what seems like everyone except Apple – most recently Wal-Mart – echoing the path taken earlier by EMI . (More at But tunes available to Neuf Cegetel customers will include DRM.