Report: DoCoMo, AT&T plan US I-mode launch next year

NTT DoCoMo Inc. is planning to launch its wildly popular I-mode wireless Internet service in the U.S. next year, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The company, which will launch I-mode with its partner AT&T Wireless Group Inc., is eyeing Seattle as the first city that will get the service, the AP quoted Kiyoyuki Tsujimura, managing director of the company's global strategy, as saying in an interview. Nationwide roll-out is expected to take two years, said the AP.

Charges for the AT&T service are expected to be similar to those in Japan, Tsujimura said, according to the report. Additionally, AT&T may offer a flat-rate pricing scheme, said the AP.

In Japan, NTT DoCoMo charges according to the amount of data sent and received by users. Each packet of 128 bytes costs 0.3 yen (US$0.0025). Thus, 200K bytes of data, which is equivalent to 1,563 packets, costs the user 468 yen ($3.90). Pricing of wireless Internet services is something currently on the minds of many telecommunications carriers and was discussed earlier this week at an industry forum in Portugal. [See "Mobile operators search for clues on GPRS pricing," March 13.]In November last year NTT DoCoMo secured a deal with AT&T Wireless to launch I-mode in the U.S. The deal also saw DoCoMo take a 16 percent stake in the American operator and take charge of its wireless data operations.

I-mode just celebrated its second birthday in Japan. The service, which allows users to send and receive e-mail and access a host of entertainment and information services just added support for Java applets. It currently has more than 20 million users in Japan and is the world's most successful wireless Internet service.

NTT DoCoMo, in Tokyo, can be contacted at +81-3-5563-7015 or found online at http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/.

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