DoCoMo and mmO2 confirm I-mode deal

Mobile phone carrier mmO2 will launch versions of NTT DoCoMo's I-mode mobile internet service in the UK and Ireland in the second...

Mobile phone carrier mmO2 will launch versions of NTT DoCoMo's I-mode mobile internet service in the UK and Ireland in the second half of 2005 and in Germany in early 2006.

DoCoMo will license I-mode for mmO2's 22 million customers on 2G, GPRS and 3G networks, the companies said.

I-mode offers a package of content, e-mail, games, online shopping, video clips, ticketing services and other applications and services designed for packet-based network technologies in a format that is nearly identical to regular web pages.

In the UK and Ireland, mmO2 will have exclusive use of I-mode technology. In Germany, mmO2 will launch a service and handsets under its own brand through existing independent retail channels. MmO2 in Germany will use I-mode-capable handsets that incorporate mmO2 Germany's Genion HomeZone product, the companies said.

This will mean that for the first time, I-mode will be competing with itself; E-Plus Mobilfunk. KG already offers the service in Germany.

MmO2 also will have the right to sell I-mode through its own channels in Ireland, Germany and the UK, according to the companies.

Offering I-mode will boost the revenue mmO2 gleans from its subscribers each month, the company said. Nearly 22% of its service revenues already come from data services and the company claims it has three million customers using its WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technology.

News of the deal between mmO2 and NTT DoCoMo first surfaced on 25 November when sources said the two companies were negotiating to introduce I-mode to the UK.

The UK had remained one of the last major European markets without DoCoMo's service, after an earlier attempt to introduce the I-mode in the UK with Hutchison 3G UK fell through.
 
I-mode was launched in 1999 and is popular in Japan, where DoCoMo has more than 42 million I-mode subscribers. The service has more than three million subscribers outside Japan, according to DoCoMo.

The deal with mmO2 is the eleventh I-mode partnership between DoCoMo and a carrier outside of Japan, and it is the third partnership announced this year.

Other I-mode partners are Cellcom Israel in Israel; Cosmote Mobile Communications in Greece; KPN Mobile in the Netherlands; Far EasTone Telecommunications in Taiwan; BASE in Belgium; Bouygues Telecom in France; Telefonica Móviles in Spain; Telstra in Australia; and Wind Telecomunicazioni in Italy.

Paul Kallender writes for IDG News Service

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