The KPN Mobile group will commence the first practical i-mode tests with a small group of users on 20 December 2001. This follows the technical co-ordination of the high-speed GPRS network and the new i-mode handsets. i-mode is the success formula for web based mobile data services developed by NTT DoCoMo, Inc.. KPN Mobile will be the first company in Europe to introduce i-mode in spring 2002. NEC from Japan will supply KPN Mobile with the first i-mode handsets.
KPN Mobile is already guaranteed a strong supply of content. Agreements have been reached with a large number of national and international content providers (information suppliers) for the supply of mobile services in the field of information, communication, entertainment and transactions. The content providers that will offer mobile data services via i-mode include amongst others: Reuters, Radio 538, Albert Heijn, Eurosport, Endemol, Cybird, Hudson, Meteoconsult, Hallmark, Dinnersite.nl and SNS Bank.
i-mode is based on an open platform. KPN Mobile and the content providers will offer certified i-mode content via the i-mode portal. This means that the company makes strict agreements concerning user-friendliness and customer service, whereby services must be kept up to date and must provide significant added value for the customer. The great deal of interest among content providers means that KPN Mobile has been able to reach extensive agreements with more than 100 parties. It is expected that around 60 certified sites will be available in the Netherlands for the launch. Sites can or be visited for free or a monthly subscription has to be paid. In addition to certified providers, non-certified providers will also have the opportunity to offer services via independent sites. These sites can be offered by consumers and companies or organisations wishing to do so and can be accessed freely. Based on experiences in Japan, it is expected that there will be a significant number of independent sites on offer.
The introduction of i-mode in Europe is the result of intensive co-operation between KPN Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, content providers and mobile telephone suppliers. i-mode will be made available in Europe under the same name as in Japan and with a corresponding logo.
The first i-mode handsets have been specially developed and produced for the European market by NEC based on Japanese designs. The first model is the N21i. Distinctive features of this handset include a much larger screen, colour display and improved sound quality of ringing tunes. Users can also send and receive e-mails containing up to 1000 characters and SMS messages up to 160 characters. The handset is GPRS (and thus GSM)-compatible. The built-in i-mode browser enables users to read both i-mode-compatible HTML and WML content. In addition to mobile telephone calls, SMS messages and e-mail, users can gain access to all i-mode services with this handset.
Mr. Takeshi Natsuno, Managing Director of i-mode Strategy Department of NTT DoCoMo said: 'Users judge the value of mobile internet services by the quality of content. It is crucial to encourage content providers to create high-quality content, therefore, mobile telecommunication operators like NTT DoCoMo work very hard to provide the best-possible business platforms and supporting technologies. We also co-ordinate the efforts of industry players with the needs and expectations of our users. By ensuring maximum cohesion in the development of handsets, networks, Internet gateways, portal sites and mobile content, we have created so called a value chain that offers maximum satisfaction for users. Moreover, this value chain helps to stimulate further progress by providing mutual profitable feedback to content providers, handset manufactures and mobile telecommunication operators. The success of these efforts is very evident in Japan, where nearly 30 million i-mode subscribers including 9.6 million Java enabled i-mode users enjoy access to some 2,900 i-mode menu sites and more than 50,000 i-mode compatible sites.'
"With i-mode, KPN Mobile is launching a totally new concept in mobile data services. Thanks to the collaboration with NTT DoCoMo, the world leader in this field, we believe that we can offer a unique experience resulting in very enthusiastic customers' says Mark de Jong, Executive Vice President Corporate Development of KPN Mobile. "However, just as in Japan, it will take some time before i-mode can enjoy the widespread success we expect it to have here".
The market introduction of i-mode will be carried out step-by-step. Now that the first handsets, the network and the services are available, KPN Mobile is able to commence the 'friendly user period', which means that i-mode will be tested on a small scale by a limited group of users. The next step will be taken in the first months of next year when a few hundred customers will be invited to join KPN Mobile in gaining further i-mode experience. Once both steps have been successfully completed, KPN Mobile will introduce i-mode market wide.