KPN Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, TIM Launch European Mobile Internet Portal
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[London, ENGLAND] Dutch mobile operator KPN Mobile announced Thursday a pan-European Internet portal, a joint venture with Japanese partner NTT DoCoMo and Italian mobile operator Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM).
The deal will bring NTT DoCoMo's popular i-mode concept to Europe where it will be a rival to other services based on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).
The two European partners bring substantial user bases to the project: KPN Mobile with 13 million controlled subscribers and TIM with 20.7 million customers in Italy and 41 million worldwide.
Like those from Orange Internet, also announced this week, services will consist of e-mail, information, gaming, and location-based information on traffic, restaurants, parking, etc.
Initially, the new mobile Internet portal will reach users in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium -- four countries where the estimated total market reach will be around 165 million people. The partners will later move into other European countries as the opportunities arise.
Two years after launching i-mode in Japan, NTT DoCoMo has 17 million customers using it. However, in Europe the service may be somewhat delayed by the need for combined i-mode/WAP handsets which the handset manufacturers will not deliver in quantity until the end of the year.
KPN Mobile and NTT DoCoMo announced that they will establish a separate company dedicated to mobile data. The company will be funded by KPN Mobile to the tune of EUR 90 million (US $85 million), while NTT DoCoMo will take a 25 percent stake and contribute EUR 50 million (US $47 million).
The new venture will get a flying start by receiving KPN Mobile's mobile portals and platforms E-Plus Online and M-Info which currently operate in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.
The latest deal in Europe's battle for positioning in the mobile Internet market reflects the results of recent auctions for UMTS licenses. TIM holds three UMTS licenses in Italy, Spain and Austria, while KPN Mobile holds UMTS licenses in Germany and The Netherlands, and is a shareholder in Hutchinson 3G together with NTT DoCoMo in the U.K.
KPN Mobile's acquisition of a 77.5 percent interest in German operator E-Plus in February 2000 was the key to its transformation into a pan-European operator, and has made the latest deal possible.