I-mode puts Euro joint venture on hold

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I-mode puts Euro joint venture on hold

Dutch mobile phone operator KPN Mobile and its Japanese partner NTT DoCoMo have shelved plans to form a joint venture company for a European version of Japan's popular mobile Internet service, I-mode.

Instead, KPN will license the I-mode technology for its Dutch and Belgian networks and plans to do the same in Germany. It was necessary to abandon the joint venture to avoid further delay of the European I-mode launch, KPN said.

"A licensing agreement is much less complex. We prefer it because of the speed," said KPN spokesman Marinus Potman, adding that a future joint venture had not been ruled out.

Launch of the European version of I-mode is now planned for late in Q1 or sometime in the Q2 next year in Germany and the Netherlands, with Belgium following some two months later. The decision to license will mean a slight delay on the planned launch date, Potman admitted.

"We said we would launch late this year or early next year. Now it will be in spring of next year," he said.

KPN and NTT DoCoMo ran into practical problems setting up the European joint venture, according to Potman. Responsibility for server operation, operation of the main menu and portal services and development of a pan-European brand was to be shared, but this was found to be unworkable.

"We discovered that organising content for the services is a local affair. Each operator will manage its own I-mode service," said Potman.

The joint venture, first announced in January, was supposed to be established in March and also included Italy's Telecom Italia Mobile as a partner. KPN was to own 75% of the equity with a $90m investment. NTT planned to invest $50m and would hold the remaining shares.

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