European I-mode launch set for 16 March

German carrier E-Plus Mobilfunk has announced that it will launch an I-mode wireless Internet service on 16 March. This will be...

German carrier E-Plus Mobilfunk has announced that it will launch an I-mode wireless Internet service on 16 March. This will be the first I-mode service to be operated outside Japan.

E-Plus, a subsidiary of KPN Mobile, will start taking service subscriptions and orders for I-mode handsets from customers on 8 March. The NEC N21i will be the only I-mode-compatible handset available for the launch of the service in Germany.

The content services available at the beginning will include news, weather forecast, sports, entertainment and financial information from 60 content providers. Users will be able to send and receive e-mail messages of up to 1,000 characters per message, E-Plus said.

Handsets will be sold at €249 (£152), a monthly subscription fee for I-mode will cost €3(£1.81), and the price of services provided by content makers will cost up to €2 per month, the statement said. The packet transmission fee will be €0.01 per 1Kbyte and for e-mail transmission, an additional €0.19 will be charged per e-mail.

Following the German launch, KPN Mobile plans to roll out the service in the Netherlands in mid-April. KPN's Belgian subsidiary KPN Orange will start its I-mode service in Belgium in June.

The same NEC handsets will be used in Belgium and the Netherlands as for the first launch in Germany, NEC said in a statement.

Launching I-mode in Europe is one of the overseas expansion strategies of NTT DoCoMo, which originally started I-mode in 1999 and currently has more than 30 million subscribers in Japan.

NTT DoComo's next move will be to launch I-mode and its 3G service in the US, said Keiji Tachikawa, the company's president and chief executive officer. The company is planning to roll out the US version of I-mode through AT&T Wireless Services.

"We also intend to build on our alliances with other leading US-based companies, such as Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, AOL Time Warner and Hewlett-Packard," Tachikawa said.

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