Verizon Wireless on Thursday said it would start letting its subscribers download music to their mobile phones over its wireless network later this month in the No. 2 U.S. cell phone provider's latest attempt to expand beyond voice calling services.

The wireless venture of Verizon Communications (VZ ) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) said it would charge $1.99 a song for wireless downloads, and 99 cents a song if the customer downloads the song on a personal computer first.

Verizon Wireless' biggest rival, Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), which launched its music service late last year, charges about $2.50 per song.

Verizon Wireless and its rivals are trying to get subscribers to use their phones for everything from watching video clips to surfing the Web, with the aim of growing revenue even as the price of phone calls falls.

Verizon Wireless said it would kick off the service, which will work on its high-speed network covering about half the population, on January 16.

Consumers will be able to search or browse for music on their personal computers or on their phones through the new service, which also offers the option of providing text message alerts when a favorite performer has released a new album.

Verizon Wireless said it expects to have a music catalog of about 1 million songs from the major music labels.