As promised, NTT DoCoMo continues to advance it strategy of rolling out i-Mode and ‘i-Mode-like’ services around the world. To-date, it has helped launch services in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Taiwan, and soon France as well.
It will be some time before observers can declare this campaign a success. In Europe, i-Mode-branded services have gained over 100,000 subscribers. The latest i-Mode ‘new market feedback’ comes from Taiwan, where i-Mode is being offered through KG Telecom and has accumulated 20,000 subscribers out of Taiwan’s 23 million mobile subscribers within the first two months of launch. Initial feedback says that although being perceived as slightly expensive (users paying USD 12 per month for 200 kilobytes of data), it is still getting good reviews and spawning local ‘unofficial’ i-Mode sites.
KDDI’s au service is working on a cash settlement system for 3G phones that make use of UIM (or SIM-type) cards which allow a phone to store personal information, including credit card account data. By the end of the year, KDDI plans to test the phone for use exchanging credit card information to shop cashiers via infrared communication. In contrast to the more experimental wireless settlement technologies being tested by NTT DoCoMo this year, KDDI’s solutions are looking more realistic as for deployment in next year’s handset crop.
Last, Mitsubishi Electric has developed an IP cellular phone that enables fixed-line and cellular IP phone users to communicate through Mitsubishi’s proprietary Internet protocol. The mobile phone includes an IEEE802.11b wireless LAN module that allows the phone to be used in Wireless LAN environments anywhere in the world. Although MMJ is a believer in WLAN and think this product will definitely have a place in the market, its most likely usage will be confined to the home or office since roaming WLAN coverage is still an unresolved issue. It is not clear when the Mitsubishi will release the product commercially.Written by Scott Murff for PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence.