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Europe gets i-mode while UK puts up with WAP

European launch set for i-mode, but not for UK

UK mobile users could watch the rest of Europe adopt the fabulously successful i-mode system while they twiddle their fingers using WAP, after Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo signed an agreement with two European telcos this week.

WAP services have so far proved less popular than hoped [see our previous story ]. By contrast i-mode, launched in Japan in February 1999, has been incredibly successful.

Latest figures from DoCoMo show 17.8m subscribers to i-mode – that’s compared to 8m WAP users. There’s every reason to believe i-mode will be just as successful in Europe.

NTT DoCoMo’s new Dutch and Italian partners will roll out i-mode services across Europe by the end of the year. But the UK could be left behind as this country isn’t mentioned in the companies’ plans. No one's saying who will be doing it right now.

One company which has built cHTML ( the language of i-mode) server software for i-mode is Logica. Trials with carriers in Singapore and Hong Kong have been successful, and Joe Cunningham, chief technical strategist for wireless at Logica, confirmed that the company was also beginning trials with UK carriers.

But Cunningham was reluctant to name names. "Carriers in the UK are reticent because of WAP’s poor reception. They want to make sure their handsets and operations are properly set up before they launch services," he told us.

Mobile telco Orange, currently the biggest operator for small firms, with the second largest number of total users in the UK, refused to comment as to whether it would be part of the scheme.

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