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O2 launches i-mode service in UK

Mobile Internet service includes push e-mail

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O2 has finally given details of the i-mode service it will offer in the UK. The operator is launching the mobile Internet service, created by NTT DoCoMo in Japan six years ago, with four new phones and a hundred content sites.

The service is being launched under the slogan, "the Internet at the touch of a button," and the four new phones, from Samsung and NEC, all have an i-mode button and Blackberry-style push e-mail.

O2 has its own content portal but describes i-mode as a service that allows customers to do many of the same functions they do on the Internet today, such as banking, shopping and buying tickets. O2's existing portal, by contrast, is meant to offer entertainment and information services, according to the company's statement.

The two services will charge the same £3 per megabyte price, but the i-mode service will be free till the end of the year, for contract customers, and for a month for pre-pay users. E-mail will be free until April, and then be charged at the same rate as text messages.

O2 will start offering i-mode in Ireland next week and in Germany during the first half of next year.

I-mode was initially expected to be introduced by Hutchison 3G UK (3) in the UK because NTT DoCoMo once had an ownership stake in 3. However, reports surfaced in 2003 that NTT DoCoMo was looking for a different partner. In early 2004, NTT DoCoMo announced its intention to sell its stake in 3.

I-mode was first launched in Europe in 2002 by E-Plus Mobilfunk in Germany. The service is now available in seven countries, not including O2's upcoming introductions.



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