Telstra today announced it had entered an exclusive partnership with NTT DoCoMo to launch a new rich-content mobile Internet service.
Under the deal, Telstra will obtain license rights to deploy the Japanese mobile giant's widely used i-mode service across its network for the next five years.
Once the i-mode service is launched, Telstra will be able to offer Australian consumers access to sophisticated Internet services such as e-mail, gaming and rich-Web content through mobile handsets.
Ted Pretty, Telstra group managing director, said the telecommunications heavyweight expected the service to be available to Australian consumers by Christmas.
Telstra did not reveal the exact retail pricing details for i-mode today, but the carrier's chief of marketing, Holly Kramer, said the pricing scheme was expected to contain a fixed monthly fee component and a variable component based on data usage.
Telstra expects handsets compatible with the service to retail for less than AU$500.
According to Pretty, Telstra is hoping the service will yield a 30 percent increase in mobile data revenue per user. The company has conservatively set a target to gather 1 million subscribers to the service over the next three years.
Pretty said Telstra would pay DoCoMo a single-digit figure in the millions up front for the rights to use the technology and a fee "tied to the success of the platform".
Telstra will deploy the i-mode service over its GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network. Pretty explained that while i-mode could still only be consider a 2 or 2.5G service, it would provide a rehearsal for the release of the carrier's anticipated 3G W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) service.
"One of the most important aspects of this platform is that it makes us 3G ready -- in other words it will provide services ultimately for wide-band CDMA," said Pretty.
The company was today unwilling to commit to a date for the release of its 3G service, but Pretty hinted that it may be as late as Q1, 2006.
The i-mode platform is currently deployed in nine countries serving content to the markets of the world's most common language groups, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Greek and Dutch.
According to Telstra the launch represented the first time that DoCoMo's service would be deployed in an English speaking country.
Pretty said Telstra would source content for the service from both within Australia and abroad.
"Telstra will work with content partners and developers, both locally and internationally, to enable their services to become commercially available to Australian subscribers of i-mode," he said.
Telstra is hoping the availability of foreign language applications will be a drawcard for Australian ethnic communities.
"One of the unique features of the i-mode platform -- which will be particularly relevant to Australia, given its multicultural base -- is that we will be able to take foreign language applications..and provide some of [them] on the i-mode platform locally," Pretty said.