NTT DoCoMo hits 20 million subscribers

Europe next as i-mode conquers Japan

The success of its mobile Internet service i-mode helped Japanese network operator NTT DoCoMo hit the 20 million subscribers mark on Sunday.

I-mode lets users browse the Internet and check email from their mobile phones. NTT DoCoMo said that a total of 828 companies are now providing services, and that there are currently 1,480 official i-mode sites, and over 40,000 independent sites. Last week the company announced a partnership with search engine Google.

NTT DoCoMo launched i-mode just over two years ago, and it is used for activities as diverse as share trading and playing games. Its popularity is so great that the average high school student spends around $78 (£48) on the service. NTT DoCoMo is currently gaining over 40,000 new subscribers every day, and is the largest Japanese mobile phone company.

I-mode's success makes it a a threat to Europe's Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). Since it launched, WAP has been criticised for being too slow and for not offering compelling enough services, although WAP Forum president Scott Goldman claimed last month that WAP 2.0 would be a big improvement. NTT DoCoMo has insisted in the past that it has no plans to launch i-mode in Europe.

NTT DoCoMo recently opened a European headquarters in London. It is expected to launch new services in May, and is likely to be the first mobile network operator launch a third-generation (3G) network.

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