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Japan's largest mobile-telecommunication company, NTT DoCoMo licensed the I-mode system to KPN Mobile in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as its German subsidiary, E-Plus. The services are expected to roll out in March or April in the Netherlands and Germany, followed shortly by Belgium.
KPN Mobile has been using NEC handsets as part of its I-mode trial in Europe, according to an NEC statement.
NEC will provide the N21i, a clam-shell-style mobile phone equipped with a 1.9in colour thin film transistor LCD, to the operators of I-mode services in each country, the statement said.
The N21i has a similar design to NEC I-mode handsets sold on the Japanese market, where NEC holds the top market share, but there are, however, some differences. The European models will include a dual browser, which is compatible with both compact HTML, the basic I-mode markup language, and WAP, which is already in widespread use throughout Europe. They will also support the GSM network system used by KPN.
"It is going to be the first I-mode-enabled handset that will be released outside Japan," said Akiko Shikimori, a spokeswoman for NEC. "With this handset as a start, NEC will reenter the European mobile-handset market, and this will eventually lead to the company's global expansion of its Internet-enabled mobile-phone business. We are planning to provide handsets not only for the I-mode services outside Japan, but also for other wireless Internet services and 2.5G and above services," she said.