A million i-mode users in Europe

Slow uptake

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KPN Telecom today announced its one millionth European i-mode customer, the target it originally set for December 2003.

KPN extended its reach in the market in the second half of 2003 with the introduction of i-mode for prepaid customers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Customers can surf i-mode sites, email and chat, download games, applications and ring tones and send and receive photos. The service was developed by NTT DoCoMo in Japan, where it has been a landmark success ever since its start five years ago.

Outside Japan, however, i-mode is struggling: few of DoCoMo's partners are number one in their home markets.

Since i-mode was launched in 2002, several mobile operators, including Vodafone, have introduced thriving competitors. Critics say the i-mode brand lacks punch in Europe.

This week also saw the end of a costly foray into the key US market, where DoCoMo intends to flog its 16 per cent stake in AT&T Wireless, sold this week to Cingular Wireless. NTT may consider negotiating a reinvestment in the US cellular operator at a later date, sources say.

Most of the European i-mode partners, however, remain confident. KPN says it has more than 560 i-mode services from over 400 national and international content partners including Disney, CNN and Reuters. i-mode also offers secure mobile banking services, allowing customers to make payments and bank transfers straight from their phone.

The number of handsets has also increased, including phones from NEC and Mitsubishi, as well as i-mode browser compatible handsets from Siemens and Nokia. ®

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