NTT DoCoMo licenses I-mode to German network

Japan's NTT DoCoMo has licensed its I-mode technology to E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH & Co. of Germany, clearing the way for what is likely to be the first launch of the mobile Internet service outside Japan.

The E-Plus licensing deal is valid until Jan. 1, 2012 and covers patents, service know-how, the I-mode brand and other technologies to offer the I-mode service in Germany, first on a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and later on a 3G (third-generation) mobile phone network, NTT DoCoMo said in a statement Monday.

The German deal follows a similar pact between NTT DoCoMo and KPN Mobile NV of the Netherlands for its Dutch and Belgian operations. KPN Mobile is the majority shareholder in E-Plus.

Preparations for the E-Plus I-mode service have been under way for months, and licensing was seen as a formality, a KPN Mobile spokeswoman said.

The service will be launched in Germany in March or April, with the Netherlands following shortly after, the KPN spokeswoman said. The Belgian service will be slightly later because the GPRS network in that country isn't quite ready yet, she said.

The service in Germany will provide travel and weather information, restaurant guides, maps, and entertainment such as ring tones, pictures and games, according to the NTT DoCoMo statement.

KPN Mobile announced in December that I-mode handsets for the service will be provided by NEC Corp.

Dutch executives, managers and IT professionals expect I-mode to be welcomed by many in the Netherlands, according to a survey of over 500 directors, managers and IT professionals released last week by professional services company Ernst & Young Executive Temporary Management BV. Even after the false start of mobile Internet services in the Netherlands using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), 41 percent of those surveyed expect the Dutch user to embrace I-mode, whilst 47 percent expect users to take a wait-and-see attitude.

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