Philippine carrier to offer i-mode services

Mobile operator Smart Communications will initially roll out i-mail, an e-mail service on the platform, to its Smart Gold subscribers in March.

Leading Philippine wireless carrier Smart Communications is set to roll out i-mode services to its postpaid customers in March.

In a statement, Smart said i-mode will be available initially to its Smart Gold subscribers.

Under the i-mode service, Smart Gold subscribers will have access to i-mail, allowing them to send e-mail via their handsets for 1 peso (US$0.025) per message, the wireless carrier said.

Smart also said it plans to make available more attractive and practical content and information to its i-mode user base in the Philippines.

i-mode is a popular mobile e-mail and Internet service first launched in Japan by mobile communications leader NTT DoCoMo way back in 1999.

The service is currently used by more than 47.8 million subscribers in Japan, and is also used by mobile subscribers in 15 other countries in Asia and Europe.

"We understand and seek to cater to the rapidly evolving needs of today's mobile phone owners," said Danilo J. Mojica, chief of Smart's wireless consumer division. "Smart provides not only cutting-edge connectivity to the biggest network in the country, it also offers access to world-class services, such as i-mode."

The service rollout is also part of an agreement between NTT Group, the parent company of Japanese carrier DoCoMo, and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the parent company of Smart.

NTT DoCoMo earlier increased its stake in PLDT from 6.7 percent to 13.34 percent. The Japanese company last month said it acquired the additional 12.53 million shares, or an additional 6.64 percent stake in PLDT, for approximately 86.7 billion yen (US$815 million).

DoCoMo's parent company, NTT Group, now has a total of 2.03 percent stake in the Philippine carrier's outstanding common stock.

The increase in stake also enables DoCoMo to book the investment using the equity method and reclassify PLDT as an affiliate, said DoCoMo in the statement.

As part of the stake increase, DoCoMo said it expects to "strengthen" its business tie-up with Smart Communications.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.