NTT DoCoMo licenses I-mode to German network

Japan's NTT DoCoMo has licensed its I-mode technology to E-Plus Mobilfunk of Germany, clearing the way for what is likely to be...

Japan's NTT DoCoMo has licensed its I-mode technology to E-Plus Mobilfunk of Germany, clearing the way for what is likely to be the first launch of a mobile Internet service outside Japan.

The E-Plus licensing deal is valid until 2012 and covers patents, service know-how, the I-mode brand and other technologies needed to offer the I-mode service in Germany, first on a GPRS and later on a 3G mobile phone network, NTT DoCoMo said.

The German deal follows a similar pact between NTT DoCoMo and KPN Mobile of the Netherlands for its Dutch and Belgian operations. KPN Mobile is the majority shareholder in E-Plus.

Preparations for the E-Plus I-mode service have been underway for months, and licensing was seen as a formality, a KPN Mobile spokeswoman said.

The service will be launched in Germany in March or April, with the Netherlands following shortly after, the KPN spokeswoman said. The Belgian service will be rolled out afterwards because the GPRS network in that country isn't quite ready yet, she said.

The service in Germany will provide travel and weather information, restaurant guides, maps, and entertainment such as ring tones, pictures and games, according to NTT DoCoMo.

KPN Mobile announced in December that I-mode handsets for the service will be provided by NEC.

Dutch executives, managers and IT professionals expect I-mode to be welcomed by many in the Netherlands, according to a survey of over 500 directors, managers and IT professionals released last week by professional services company Ernst & Young Executive Temporary Management. Even after the false start of mobile Internet services in the Netherlands using WAP, 41% of those surveyed expect Dutch users to embrace I-mode, while 47% expect users to take a wait-and-see attitude.

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