iMode was launched in February 1999 and provides continuous connection with the Internet from mobile phones. Currently not available in Europe, iMode had 8 million users in Japan by June 2000, compared to about 35,000 Wap users in the UK.
iMode is not expected to appear in Europe in the short term, as it is based on an entirely different mobile communications infrastructure.
An NTT DoCoMo spokeswoman said, "We are not sure when iMode will come to Europe because it runs on the PDC [Personal Digital Communications System] system which is the standard in Japan. It uses packet transmission, while Europe uses GSM. It will not transfer easily."
PDC, as used by iMode, is based on the third generation Wideband-Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) mobile technology.
Current UK mobile communications use GSM, a TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) second generation (2G) technology.
Industry analysts predict that there will be a battle over standards on 3G networks. iMode uses compact HTML (cHTML) format and so it is easier to convert standard Web pages to iMode than it is to produce Wap pages which need to be encoded in Wml (Wireless Markup Language).
There are about 4,000 cHTML Web sites available in Japan for iMode users. Estimates for UK Wap sites are in the order of one to two thousand. But many are hamstrung by poor performance and incompatibility between handsets from different suppliers.
Wap is an open standard technology which was designed with 3G networks in mind, while iMode is a proprietary brand and service.
Last week's deal between Japan's NTT DoCoMo, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and the Dutch firm KPN Mobile was intended to create an alliance that will allow the Japanese company to bring maximum weight to bear in the struggle for market share in the 3G mobile market.
Wap head-to-head with iMode