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European cellular network provider mmO2 today launched Active, a mobile Internet offering.

With Active, mmO2 is bidding to compete with market leader Vodafone, which launched its own mobile Net service, Live, late last year and has already attracted over one million users. Active also represents the telco's pitch to sell more feature-rich, colour handsets and drive up data service revenue.

mmO2 will bundle Active as standard on all handsets next month. For now, over 350,000 O2 customers can use the service. Active integrates a number of offerings mmO2 has already offered across its O2 network, including games, and also provides customers with downloadable ringtones and video footage, plus multimedia messaging and chat. Some components are free, others must be paid for through a subscription package.

Going forward, the loss-making mmO2 hopes Active will provide a platform for third-party services and products.

Having written down its investment in 3G licences, mmO2 has effectively said it believes the multimedia and other non-voice services that cellphone users want can be delivered by today's technology. mmO2 lost £10.2 billion last year - largely through asset writedowns - and will be looking to Active to form a platform for new, hi-tech revenue streams it can deliver as cheaply as possible.

Indeed: "O2 Active is critical as we head towards our target of 25 per cent of service revenues from data by end 2004," said mmO2's chief marketing and data officer, Kent Thexton, in a statement.

Accessing the icon-based Active service is billed just like a WAP browsing call, the price of which depends on the customer's O2 access package. Some downloads will be free, others will require a subscription payment. Ditto Active's information offerings, such as news and entertainment.

To encourage users to try the service, mmO2 said customers will automatically find a bookmark to Active next time they visit an existing O2 WAP bookmark. It also said it will work with handset makers to add O2 Active buttons to phones, and named Samsung as one of those it is partnering with. That said, the company will be initially touting Nokia's Symbian-based 3650 as the ideal Active handset. ®

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