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Mobile net is go with .mobi approval

ICANN greenlights industry-backed TLD

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The pointlessness of accessing the internet through your mobile may soon be over with the creation of a new top-level domain, .mobi.

The new domain is backed by the main mobile phone manufacturers and operators, as well as Microsoft and the GSM Association, all of whom have a single purpose according to one of the team - to make the web on your phone a reality.

“Dot-mobi is all about the mobile internet,” explained Rick Fant, also director of mobile services at Microsoft. “And past experience of it has not gone down well - WAP for example. We [.mobi] represent over 1.8 billion subscribers but only 12 to 14 per cent have ever used the mobile internet.”

The reason will be known to anyone who have ever attempted to link into the internet using their phone or PDA - very slow, very patchy service. High bandwidth charges and at the end of the day, very little useful information.

The .mobi domain plans to change all that by creating an entire area of the internet dedicated to providing content for mobile devices. And with Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung on the one hand, and T-Mobile, Vodafone, 3 and Telefonica on the other, all part of .mobi, there is plenty of weight behind the plan.

Since .mobi is one of a raft of new “sponsored” top-level domains, it will be run through a sponsoring organisation and applicants for the domain will have to go through a new company called mTLD Top Level Domain Ltd, based in Dublin.

That company will produce a series of style guides and policies that Fant said he expected to come in the form of a manual and snippets of downloadable sample code. After a 90-day sunrise period, anyone who signs up to say they will follow the guide and policies will be able to buy a .mobi domain for “more or less the same” as existing domains - which we took to mean around $10 per year.

The team is also keen to stress that .mobi is not and will not become a standards body. “This is a pick-it-and-go service,” explained Fant. “I will fight any attempt to make it a standards body.” And, he said, it will be operating system neutral.

The drive is all too clear. Mobile phone operators are moving toward high-speed data networks (and investing billions in an expanded infrastructure), and mobile manufacturers are building more complicated, sophisticated devices. But the sticking point remains a huge lack of content, itself causing a slow take-up by consumers.

“We are essentially a marketing programme,” Fant said. “We aim to make the mobile internet extremely visible.” internet specialists Afilias will be charged with running the back-end of the service.

Fant refused to disclose financial or staff details, but fortunately ICANN insisted on them during the application, so we know that mTLD will have between 20 to 25 staff and a budget of roughly $10m a year.

That hiring started as soon as the contract was signed with ICANN in Luxembourg last night and new .mobi domains will be on sale in the “first half of 2006”, said Fant.®

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