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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
France gets new mobile net services
i-mode advertising
Can the hugely popular i-mode transfer to Europe?
French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom has said it is to introduce the Japanese i-mode system of offering internet-style information and services to its customers within a year.

I-mode was originated by Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo, and has more than 30 million users in its home country.

i-mode features
Picture messaging
Easy direction finding
Networked games
Horoscopes
Dating services
Financial services

Bouygues' deal with DoCoMo is set to last for 10 years, allowing it access to patents, know-how and technology. The price tag has not been made public.

The company, part of French conglomerate Bouygues, has said it will bid for licences to offer advanced, high-speed data mobile services when the latest auction begins next month.

The mobile operator opted not to pay the high costs of third generation licenses during last year's auction.

Bouygues will, at least initially, source handsets from the Japanese suppliers which keep DoCoMo's service in business.

European access

Bouygues, with 98% coverage of the French population and 6.6 million subscribers, is not the first European company to use i-mode to test the water for advanced services.

KPN in the Netherlands and E-Plus in Germany, both of which have DoCoMo as a minority stakeholder, have both launched i-mode already.

All three operators hope to succeed where the rest of Europe has failed, in converting mobile phone owners to using data services on a day-to-day basis.

WAP, the prevalent data standard in Europe, has proved too slow, and operators' unwillingness to allow third parties to make serious revenues from services they offer has drastically limited what customers can access.

I-mode, on the other hand, has gained strength in Japan from a model whereby DoCoMo collects money through the phone bill and then gives most of it back to the service provider.

KPN and E-Plus are copying the model, and Bouygues is expected to follow suit.

DoCoMo says it is talking to potential partners in Spain and Italy as well.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Business
NTT poised to swallow huge loss
01 Mar 02 | Business
Japan telecoms giant goes West
22 Feb 02 | Business
The secret of NTT's i-mode success
14 Nov 01 | Business
NTT to launch new 3G service
24 Aug 01 | Business
NTT DoCoMo in European tie-up
23 May 01 | Business
3G 'lemmings' face tough future
17 May 01 | Business
Mobile internet boosts NTT profits
18 Jan 01 | Business
The i-mode comes to Europe
31 May 01 | Business
France hands out 3G licences
09 May 00 | Business
NTT, KPN in mobile deal
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