NTT DoCoMo is funding six mobile telephone makers to help them develop advanced handsets based on the Symbian and Linux operating systems and high-speed data communications technology.
The company will provide a total of ¥37bn (£195m) between April 2004 and March 2006 to Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Motorola Japan, NEC, Panasonic and Sharp.
The money will be used towards development work on handsets that run the Symbian and Linux operating systems and are compatible with its WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access)-based Foma service and the yet-to-be-launched HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) data communications technology.
HSDPA increases the downstream data speed from 384Kbps (bits per second) to up to 14Mbps, and NTT DoCoMo hopes to launch a service based on the technology in 2005.
By providing the money, NTT DoCoMo helps manufacturers reduce their own development costs on what are becoming increasingly expensive handsets and also gets shared ownership of the technology developed. This is hoped to speed further development in the future, the company said.
With the exception of Motorola, the five companies are the same ones that have been supplying handsets to NTT DoCoMo for its Foma service to date. The same five companies are to launch an upgraded range of Foma terminals in early 2004.
The addition of Motorola confirms that the US-based company is developing a handset for NTT DoCoMo. The Japanese carrier has not sold any foreign-designed or foreign-made handsets since it discontinued a model from Nokia several years ago.
There is a possibility that Sony Ericsson will join the list at a later date.
NTT DoCoMo launched its Foma service in October 2001, which initially failed to attract a large number of subscribers because potential customers were put off by a small selection of bulky handsets with short battery life.
A new range of telephones launched at the beginning of this year proved a turning point for Foma and subscriptions began rising steadily. The service had 1.7 million subscribers earlier this month.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service