NTT DoCoMo to launch I-mode in Europe

NTT DoCoMo will launch its I-mode wireless Internet service across Europe in April with Dutch carrier KPN Mobile NV.

NTT DoCoMo will launch its I-mode wireless Internet service across Europe in April with Dutch carrier KPN Mobile NV.

The service will first be available in the Netherlands and later be expanded to cover all of Europe, according to the Sunday edition of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

KPN also owns German carrier E-Plus. The Dutch and Belgian carriers hope the service will be adopted by half of their subscribers, which totalled 6.1 million at the end of October. Content offered through the service will be available in Dutch and English, said the newspaper.

Mitsubishi, and NEC and Matsushita - which produce the most popular I-mode handsets in Japan - will supply handsets for the European service.

"We would like to launch the service as soon as possible," said Pat Kuwahata, a spokesman for NTT DoCoMo. "That may mean in the second quarter or in the first quarter [of 2001]."

Kuwahata said the carrier is fine-tuning I-mode to work over a GPRS network, which is a different data network technology to that used in Japan.

KPN is expected to make an official announcement regarding the service on 17 December.

NTT DoCoMo will supply KPN with intellectual property rights, service know-how and technologies to offer I-mode on GSM networks with a GPRS system, and later on third-generation (3G) networks.

At present, I-mode is available only in Japan. Based on Compact HTML - a cut-down version of the HTML used on the Internet - the service enjoys wide popularity in Japan, with about 29.5 subscribers. This represents three of out every four of NTT DoCoMo's mobile phone subscribers.

KPN is one of a handful of overseas wireless carriers in which NTT DoCoMo has taken stakes with a view to expanding I-mode overseas. The company has also invested in AT&T, KG Telecommunications and Hong Kong's Hutchison.

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