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I-mode Java handsets destined for Europe

NTT DoCoMo plans to add Java support to its European wireless Internet I-mode service, launched earlier this year, when the next generation of I-mode handsets are rolled out in 2003.

Japanese customers have had access to Java-based handsets and services since January last year.

I-Appli, which allows users to download and run small Java-applets, has turned I-mode into a more entertainment-focused service with content, such as games, as important as telecoms services.

"We will follow a step-by-step process in taking a Java-based, I-mode service overseas," said Takeshi Natsuno, managing director of I-mode strategy at NTT DoCoMo, speaking at the Business Show 2002 that opened on Tuesday in Tokyo.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile-telecommunication company, has licensed the I-mode system to overseas carriers including KPN Mobile in the Netherlands, Bouygues Telecom in France and AT&T Wireless Services in the US.

The service was rolled out in Germany in March and in the Netherlands in April, and is expected to start in Belgium in June. France and the US are due to follow soon.

The European service is the first-generation I-mode service to be made available outside Japan. It is offered on a mobile phone with a large colour screen and an I-mode-compatible HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) browser. Users can browse content, such as news and maps, and send e-mail.

For the Japanese market, NTT DoCoMo unveiled the second-generation mobile handsets for I-Appli.

The first two models, due to be rolled out on Friday, are the D504i by Mitsubishi, and the F504i by Fujitsu.

The handsets feature packet-data transmission speed of up to 28.8kbps (bits per second); three-dimensional polygon engines for 3D video display and more storage capacities; 30Kbytes for Java Archive applications and 100Kbytes for associated data.

They are also equipped with infrared connections to allow data exchange of phone numbers, e-mail addresses and Java-based games between the 504i models.

"The reason we didn't adopt Bluetooth (instead of infrared) was that the handsets should be able to be used anywhere, as the 504i will be I-mode's flagship," Natsuno said.

Using infrared, users will be able to send Java-based membership card data in a video rental store, coupon data in a convenience store and electric money data to a drinks machine, he said.

Alongside the product launch, the company will launch 135 entertainment-based content services that are compatible with the handsets.

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