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DoCoMo To Begin Offering i-mode In Europe 48

Mike Bouma writes: "Since the launch of the i-mode service in February 1999, i-mode has gained more than 17 million subscribers in Japan. I-mode will soon be released onto the Belgian, German, Italian and Dutch markets as well. NTT DoCoMo will also release an upgraded i-mode sevice called "i appli" for the Japanese market on the 26th of Januari. This year in May DoComo also plans to be the first company to offer G3 mobile phone technology."
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DoCoMo To Begin Offering i-mode In Europe

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  • I don't know if anyone even in Europe know how big 3G will be, or how miserably it will fail. Personally, I see WLAN ISPs as a major threat to UMTS, since the technology WLAN uses is already "ready" and not just hot air.
  • Urban areas of the UK should get GPRS in the second quarter of this year. Can't speak for the KPN footprint. However, since WAP2 (XTHML-based, content can look more or less as good as i-mode content) won't be fully specced-out until this summer (at the soonest!) we won't have GPRS WAP2 handsets until a fair few months after we've got GPRS i-mode handsets. And GPRS WAP1 versus GPRS i-mode is no contest at all.
  • In many countries, eg. Sweden, Iceland and Finland, Europe does have GPRS and at least Motorola has a handset available.
  • As far as 3G is concerned it is expected to offer 2Mbps for pico/microcells. The technology offering 112Kbps is GPRS which is an extension of the GSM standard offering "always on" mobile internet connections which are charged by the KB.

    It is interesting that apparently the expectation of the US market is that 300Kbps is "enough" for most consumers, which is to be offered by EDGE, which I believe is a GPRS like upgrade of current CDMA infrastructure. This EDGE technology in the US is what is reffered to as 3G, but is really 2.5G!

    To sum up the above rambling, America is still destined to lag behind the rest of the world in mobile telecoms for the forseeable (sp?) future.

    Hehehehehe ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know, he's a little slow. Hopefully, he'll speed things up and start clearing house in some of the Federal prisons. And you thought California had energy problems, ZAP ZAP!
  • "This year in May DoComo also plans to be the first company to offer G3 mobile phone technology."

    Don't you think G3 is a little overkill for a phone? And what is motorola doing supplying philips with chips for their phones?

    He meant 3G.

  • This still doesn`t explain why they are so fond on http instead of gopher technology (also available in Internet). The http service is simply better and offers far more abilities.
  • You know, Apple's iMacs are still using G3's. I thought that Apple had fallen behind in the MHz battles, but really ... to think that a telephone has as much processing power as an iMac. :(


  • A couple of years ago I experienced US wireless technology first hand and I asked a friend of mine from SSF why he thought it was so poor. His relpy was I believe most insightful:

    "The US invents loads of stuff. That means we get version 1.0 of loads of stuff. Everyone else gets version 2.0 and we're stuck with an old infrastructure" or words to that effect.

    WAP, or WAP1 as I've seen it referred to here, could well be an example of the same problem, happening in Europe. i-mode will have to compete with an existing established infrastructure as well as the up-coming WAP2.

    IMHO WAP's biggest problem is it's per-minute charges. I can spend 3 minutes using WAP to find the weather in NYC, or I can call a friend in NYC, get the answer in 10 seconds, and spend the rest of my phone bill on catching up with a mate! (Yes international calls from a UK mobile are really cheap sometimes :-) )
  • At least americans with their analog phones aren't getting those "talking underwater" digital artifacts I've been getting on every other call with my digital phone in Japan.
  • Read the article AT&T-DoCoMo Alliance: This Changes Everything [], also on, for the American slant on things. Note that it says "AT&T and DoCoMo also swore allegiance to WAP Next Generation (WAPNG). It's too early to say what exactly that means, but it may portend a merger of sorts between WAP and i-mode." It also talks about how AT&T will be adding a GSM "overlay" to its existing sysyem. So, i-mode's encroachment on Europe and America may eventually lead to more unified world standards, which is a Good Thing.
  • However, what is a phone primarily used for? Reading contents? No. Talking with others. For that, the PHS phones are so much better than i-mode.

    And they work fine as long as you stay real close to a relay; if you leave the city, tough luck. Not to mention that people can pinpoint your location much more accurately with PHS's. Thanks, but I'll be sticking with my 800MHz digital phone.

    And incidentally, I've never quite seen the need for CD-quality audio in a telephone conversation...


  • ricochet is a pretty clever technology. and most of all, it's cheap to install. i wonder why they don't offer Ricochet phones... they would be a lot better and a lot cheaper than the crap wireless companies here can offer.

    i have ATT (former cellular one) in the bay area, and it's really ridiculous for the most part. quality is horrendous, service is spotty, customer service is lame. and the batteries are drained in 2 days.

    used to have a mobile in europe. that one worked just like a regular phone, perfect sound quality, had SMS etc. it does not sound like much, but it makes a huge difference in usability.
    my US phone is more like an emergency thing, i use it when no other phones are available. the one in europe was one i used exclusively, even when a landline was available. it was just so convenient...
  • Actually, here in the Uk at least most providers charge per second rather than per K. Some providers, mine included are now starting to offer 'free wap', which suddenly makes the service much more attractive. I pay £10 per month for a contract which includes unlimited WAP usage.

  • Just, remember that as Commander in Chief, I now have the control of US nuclear weapons. And I think we should have nuked you guys long ago. So fuck you.
  • Interesting argument, but completely torpedoed by the fact that i-mode doesn't use the PHS system: it's run over the entirely separate PDC system, which has none of the disadvantages that you raise. The data system run over PHS isn't the same at all.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @07:18PM (#493610)
    For the first article (big fight), the most grevious error was to say that "WML is a subset of XML" and thus rides the wave of XML as a future standard. While I do see XML becoming very popular indeed, the trouble is that WML is a language defined to be XML compliant, and is not a subset! Furthermore, though I've done no programming in it I have attended a few classes at conferences and done a lot of reading on programming WML, and it is not well thought out or easy to use.

    Another part I found rather humorous was this paragraph:

    One reason why people feel WAP phones are a big let down is that they expect their Internet experience on the WAP phone to be similar (if not better) to that on a PC. This expectation on the part of the users is really not surprising largely because the hype surrounding WAP is so high that it is made out to be something that it?s really not. And, with this kind of unrealistic expectations, the service was bound to fall short.

    Only in the computer industry do we have the hubris to assume that because users do not like and cannot understand the service, the solution is to upgrade the users! I think almost by definition, what a customer wants from wireless is realistic. If you can't give it to them (or figure out soemthing they will find useful instead of being told it's useful), then you are not done working yet!

    In the second article (Canvas Dreams), I take exception with saying that WAP has "100% industry acceptance". Personally, since DoCoMo is going to start offering service in Europe I think you should consider the "industry" anyone that will be providing service. That means DoCoMo is part of the industry, and thus WAP does not have "100% industry acceptance".

    The other facet of that is that while WAP might have a "high" industry acceptance, how high is the customer acceptance? There are plenty of examples where "industries" decided what is best for the customers and the customers all went and did something else, or just ignored the industries altogether.

    They also mention the point about land lines being very expensive in Japan - true, but isn't wireless access REALLY popular in Europe, and isn't bandwidth really expesnive there still? Perhaps similar but somewhat different market forces will spread iMode just as wide there as in Japan.

    The last article (which is better?) paints a bleaker picture for iMode. But I don't see things that way. Look at the need to create special sites, and the lock in to browsing at sites offered by your service provider, vs. iModes ability to go to any site. Also of course WAP is circuit switched, and iMode is packet based. it seems to me that iMode is going to be able to support more customers using the same bandwith than WAP.

    A few last telling points. Go to UseIt [] and read some of the artciles about usability tests of WAP devices in London. The conclusion he comes to (and one I agree with) is that screen size matters for internet browsing, and that a keypad is not enough of an interface to work with the web. Consider that it took users about 1 - 2 minutes to look up a weather report. One user reported that they could have bought a paper and spent less money to get the information faster!

    I like WAP/WML being an industry standard. It's just a shame the industry made such horrible choices. Hopefully for their own sakes the "industry" is flexible enough to switch to a packet based network that works with HTML to some degree.

  • On top of NTT having broadcast net TV over their cell system AND broadcast audio channels they are releasing a new i-Mode standard in a few days with downloadable apps including for example Space Invaders, Pacman, Chu Chu Rocket, Tetris and others. There are pictures and quicktime movies here []
  • GPRS is also starting to be available in the United Kingdom.
  • Just a correction to the very nice item you wrote.
    WAP is not circuit switched at all. But GSM data is circuit switched, and WAP (in Europe) uses GSM to send/receive the data. However this should change very soon when GPRS (a GSM packed-mode "extension").

    But inherently you are right. It was just stupid to try to sell WAP without GPRS.


  • They have no licence in Belgium!!!!! There is KPN Orange, Mobistar and Proximus. So how are they going to target Belgian customers? With pirate antenna's? Only when they are in Holland or Germany? :-) I always thought that KPN Orange (Belgium) and KPN Mobile had not much to do with each other sine Orange (Pan-European) is a competitor for KPN Mobile (The Nethertlands++) on the Dutch market. And wasn't KPN Orange (Belgium) bought by France Télécom or something? And didn't France Télécom already own Mobistar??? Geez this market is confusing! If I missed a major merger or something else please inform me of it: As far as I know Neither DoCoMo nor TIM nor KPN Mobile have anything on the Belgian market. I like to know when I'm wrong/out of date! BTW: My guess why mobile phones in the U.S.A. will never be as popular as in Europe: The country is too big. Chances for nation wide coverage are VERY small. once again, in Belgium there are 3 networks with nation-wide coverage (Well 98% due to landscape constrictions and so forth...) That's how there can be more than 5 million mobile phones for only 10 million inhabitants (including babies and elderly...) There are people here shutting off there POTS-line and buy (another) GSM instead. (Cable and ADSL Internet are also common here :-)
  • Thanks for the clarification, I hadn't realized the confusion over the naming schema of Motorola's chips (and I thought AMD was confusing with it's horses and tools).
  • The WAP spec is constantly being refined though. And you pay per k, not for second. The nice thing about WAP though is it offers much more robust programming experiences for content/site admins. And of course, when 3G debuts, the speed issue will become effectively nil (I believe 3G does data transfer at 112kbps, but I could be wrong). Hopefully though, WAP v2 will address all these issues (I believe I read somewhere that WAP v2 would debut with 3G services, but then again, who knows)
  • To amplify one of your statements, the biggest issue plagging WAP may not even the WAP spec itself, it's the "WAP browsers". You thought coding for Opera,IE,NS,Mozilla, and WebTV was a pain, have any of you tried to code a halfway dynamic WAP application? Talk about workarounds! Different phones and different versions of browsers on the same phone render everything differently or throw errors on valid WML. This increases R&D for companies wanting to develop wireless apps - it's just too much of a pain right now.
  • by Pzykotic ( 72530 )
    Boy I wish phones were based on G3 technology. The actual chip/technology is called 3G. :)
  • No, THIS is the first president of 2001 post.
  • by rafelbev ( 194458 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @11:13AM (#493620) Homepage Journal

    Here is a link [] describing on how i-node works. This stuff can get quite cool if you really have access to this technology. (Where are the towers, buddy?). I guess that finally, Europe will finally start reaping from this new technology.

    But wait a sec, where is the bill for that UMTS phone I have prepaid!?!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Because US corporations stifle innovation with ridiculous patents and licenses.
  • It seems the US isn't really doing enough to keep up with rest of the world when comes to wireless technology, espcially mobile phone technology. I use Sprint's wireless internet and while its much better than nothing, it is much worse than it could be. Has the US even had their 3G auction yet? I wonder how long this will go on before people start to realize how important it is.
  • by asn ( 4418 )
    Over in Euro
    There's a phone called DoCoMo
    We want to have i-mode
    When we use our phone....

  • For more info visit Ericsson EDGE FAQ []

    As it turns out EDGE is more like UMTS in current frequency bands. I was talking crap, but it is till unlikely to offer 2Mbps (its in the spec, but likely not to be implemented).

  • The DoCoMo's success in Japan, as earlier pointed out by another comment, has greatly to do with space concerns in their country, but is probably not the only thing that must be taken into consideration when we're looking at the birthplace of such popular innovations. In Japan, the lack of success of full size desktops can be attributed this, along with the boom of conpacts, but also the cost of a telephone connection. In the land of the rising sun, the cost of a making a telephone connection is much higher than in America, as well as the price of an ISP, which often has less to do with the lack of desktop connectivity than the expense of connecting through telephones to begin with, along with the costs of a mobile connection being almost equal, sometimes less in some cases in Asia. The European market is again, in like standing, with high prices on phone and net connections, and so, the expantion of their product would make relatively good sense, with a consumer market constantly on-the-go, but in America there is much less of a market. Though the youth of America seem to be buzzing, beeping, and vibrating (forgive me), the percentage of people connected on-the-go in Asia and Europe is much higher. Though it is a really cool concept, it seems it really only makes sense to those who require such 'niftyness' by space, cost, or really, need for mobility(which is less often the case).
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:38PM (#493627)
    I've been a happy Ricochet 128k user for months, since the day it became officially available in the SF Bay Area. Currently, 128k service is available in most major US cities (NYC, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose), 28.8k (R1) service is available in DC and Seattle while the 128k upgrade takes place, and new 128k buildouts are in progress in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Salt Lake City, and St Louis.

    Service is good, the external modem includes both serial and USB interfaces, and both work beautifully under linux. The modem is a "standard" USB modem and works with the ACM driver; the connection is simply a high-speed PPP connection. It's amazing how liberating the service is, if you have a laptop. It works just about anywhere in the cities with coverage, it's flat-rate, and there are no "roaming fees" letting me travel back East and get online just as I would at home.

    I prepaid $825 for a year of service, which works out to $68.75/month - acceptable for my primary connection. It's a bit like wireless ISDN - fast enough for streaming audio or kernel source downloads, but not DSL or cable speeds. At times I've seen >220 kbits/sec, but 80-140 is typical. Latency is too high for shooters (typically 200-600 msec - the problem is the latency fluctuates), but I can listen to a 64kbit shoutcast/icecast MP3 stream while playing gtetrinet without a hitch.

    It's not telephone service, and isn't meant to be, which is why it works so well. Who needs G3?

    Just one data point in the US,

  • i think the fact that cell phones don't really catch on here is more due to the fact that ATT and the other cell phone companies here can't get their heads out of their collective butts and offer good technology for a good price.

    in europe, mobile companies are fighting no-holds-barred over every single customer. they have huge ad campaigns, excellent starting offers, really good voice quality etc. of course it's also helping things that landlines there cost as much as more than cell phones and the cell phones have more features (caller ID, SMS, call log, etc) and similar voice quality.

    none of these is true for the US. land lines here are cheaper, voice quality on cell phones is horrible for the most part, and features either cost extra or are not available at all (SMS). so mobile phones are a lot less appealing, technologically about 5 years behind, and more expensive in the US.

    compared to these factors, iMode or not iMode is next to irrelevant. if you have a phone, you want to use it as a phone first and foremost. in the US, the voice phone experience is just not compelling enough.

    there is also a certain critical mass effect (that already affects teenagers here), in that a cell phone is a lot more useful if lots of people you know have one, too.

  • Pretty soon, we'll all be speaking like the kids in South Park after the "Chin-Pokomon" incident.
  • Seems likely that thanks to AT&T investments that i-mode should appear in the US before the end of the year, when it will be welcomed with a nearly silent round of golf claps.

    The technology represents the Internet for Japan, where PC access is less common, but Americans have been spoiled with broadband access at work, let alone PC dialups. I don't think the feature set is going to wow anybody here. With eventual buildouts for 3G, maybe the US can have six different wireless networks operating at once! I can understand why CDMA and TDMA and AMPS are the situation now, but that doesn't explain why we would need to repeat similar confusion in the future.

  • Europe doesn't have GPRS

    Well, that's not true. I know that Switzerland has the service already running, and I'm pretty sure, that other countries do as well. Here in Germany at least two carriers are going to start the common, widespread use of GPRS within the next two weeks (Viag: 24.1. and T-Mobil: 1.2.).

  • Watch out, we've been testing our latest secret weapons out in New Mexico, and your air force is no match for them!
  • Something that doesn't seem to ever be mentioned with i-mode is the quality of voice conversations with it. J-Phone is the only "real" competition that NTT is seeing with content, but most serious business users here in Japan are sticking with NTT, it seems.

    However, what is a phone primarily used for? Reading contents? No. Talking with others. For that, the PHS phones are so much better than i-mode. Yet, most people seem to tolerate the poor voice quality for the contents (and more often then not, IMHO, the name brand) of i-mode.

    Like complaining to LookOut! users about their moronic [] HTML mail, I often ask i-mode users to find a public phone to talk with me.

    But it does look as though contents are what most people find most important. At the train station or on the streets walking, I see hundreds of people every day focused on their little phone screens.

  • In the second article (Canvas Dreams), I take exception with saying that WAP has "100% industry acceptance".

    I'm the author of that bit, and I still stand by what I said. "WAP has 100% industry acceptance", I did not say that that meant that no-one was going to try expand/extend/compete etc with it, just that the people who matter (The handset manufacturers, network operators etc) are 100% behind WAP, and with the amount of money already spend on getting the WAP infastructure coupled with the ENORMOUS expenditure on 3G spectrum licences means there is little left for a dual technology play.

    A side point;
    Most people think that i-Mode is faster than WAP - suffucit to say that this is not true. WAP has no concept of speed, in the same way as HTTP has no concept of speed. WAP was deliberately designed to be air-interface bearer-indepandant. It'll work over GSM CSD, GSM HSCSD, GSM Cell Broadcast, CDMA, TDMA, GPRS, GPRS+EDGE, 3G etc etc. NTT DoCoMo launched i-Mode on a packet-based network which is faster than the GSM CSD available in European countries who deployed WAP. WAP is faster than i-Mode on comparable networks becase of the compression used on the WAP Gateway and the lack of "Slow start".

  • Nice to post a little bit of background on what i-mode is and its effects on the general community.

  • NTT DoCoMo will begin offering a European version of its hit i-mode wireless Web service in Europe in cooperation with KPN Mobile N.V. of the Netherlands and Telecom Italia Mobile, the Japanese telecom company said Thursday. When I was in Japan recently I began to understand why laptops and sub-laptops, like phones, are so popular. No one has the space in their house for a full-sized computer and computer desk, furniture, etc. My mother lives there in a two-bedroom apartment: both rooms are tatami rooms with no furniture. She has a laptop and two cell-phones. Anything that saves space is great in Japan. I would assume that, while the space problem is not so chronic in Europe, small nifty gadgets that offer Internet access cheaply would be a big hit.
  • Not G3 like the author says...
    G3 -> A processor produced by Motorola and used extensively by Apple.

    3G -> A third generation (hence the 3G) mobile processor designed for used in cell phones and the like.

    Just a little additional accuracy.

  • by Sheeple Police ( 247465 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @11:02AM (#493638)
    I can see two sides to the argument here. On the one hand, this would seem like a "Bad Thing" because WAP is trying to be the standard of most of these European countries/companies. Whenever you try to have a standard, it hurts to have division, because it encourages others to break ranks, or stipulates compatibility

    On the other hand, it could be construed as a "Good Thing" because it would encourage competition and give a kickstart to the latent WAP market by demonstrating the more powerful i-mode applications, forcing vendors to adopt to the full WAP specification (as most only do text right now, when WAP fully supports grayscale imaging in spec).

    A couple URLs for a comparison between WAP and i-mode are:

    Enjoy the reading.
  • I'm left wondering how the service is going to be delivered - iMode works on a packet basis and Europe doesn't have GPRS (The 2.5G addition to GSM that provide Packet based working) going yet and no handsets launched.

    iMode is going to be horibly expensive to use in an always on mode - much like WAP is now. Admittedly the better markup language will help but without technical details of how the service will be offered I can only see this failing in the same way the WAP has - after all if it's running on a switched circuit then it's just WAP with slightly different protocols and language.

  • Its Funny how this wasn't newsworthy when *I* submitted the article a week ago....oh well..

    Makes me want to move to tokyo in may. I can't wait for 3g wireless.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    i-appli is DoCoMo's name for their implementation of J2ME on their handsets. Applets can be 10K, and you can cache 3 on the phone at once. The first two phones are out next week: 256 colours, screen res around 80 X 160. Poor Americans with your analogue phones!

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann