Telstra looks to spur i-mode adoption

Telstra is offering a sizeable slice of i-mode subscription revenue to prospective content partners as an incentive to develop for the nascent mobile service.

I-mode content developers would receive 85 per cent of the subscription revenue generated by their application, Telstra's lead for 3GSM and Services, Cyrus Allen, told attendees at the M.Net i-mode opportunity seminar in Sydney.

In his pitch to content developers, Allen said i-mode was partner-friendly, with the inclusion of a monthly subscription model helping to provide steady revenue. Users could opt to sign up to any of i-mode's 170 plus sites, with access to content charged at 2.2 cents per kilobyte.

"We've revamped our channel construct to sell your service," he said. "This is the opportunity to charge for the content you've previously provided free on the Web."

Telstra has exclusive rights to the Japanese-made GPRS data platform for five years. Under the terms of its agreement with NTT DoCoMo, it must gain one million i-mode subscribers in three years.

The service is available through new handsets. It competes with Vodafone Live and Hutchison's 3 networks. Typical content provided on i-mode includes news and sports updates, horoscopes, film and gig guides, maps and travel information.

There was no activation fee to access i-mode, and monthly subscriptions could be turned on and off, Allen said.

"European examples have found that subscribers generally subscribe to three premium content services for about six months," he said.

Developing for i-mode was similar to Web-development, according to Allen, but revolves around on compact HTML (cHTML). Telstra offers partners a staging environment for live simulations, and a dedicated product support team.

However, there were also warnings to content developers of the challenges in partnering for i-mode. While based on GPRS, the legacy of the failed wireless application protocol (WAP) would still impede i-mode's acceptance, M.Net director of marketing, Robbee Spadafora, said.

"You still have to battle that pay versus 'Internet is free' perception," she said.

The differentiating factor for i-mode though is that it was 'always on', like broadband Internet, Spadafora said.

"WAP was log in, get it, log off," she said. "i-mode is about a continual service."

Importantly for partners, i-mode gave content its own identity, according to Spadafora.

The concept meant content would not be seen simply as an extension of the carrier or handset experience, she said.

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