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i-mode advert on the London Underground

NTT DoCoMo's i-mode is a wireless internet service popular in Japan. Unlike WAP, i-mode encompasses a wider variety of internet standards, including web access, e-mail and the packet-switched network that delivers the data. i-mode users have access to various services such as e-mail, sports results, weather forecast, games, financial services and ticket booking. Content is provided by specialized services, typically from the mobile carrier, which allows them to have tighter control over billing.

Like WAP, i-mode delivers only those services that are specifically converted for the service, or are converted through gateways. This has placed both systems at a disadvantage against handsets that use "real" browser software, and generally use a flat pricing structure for data. Even i-mode's creator, Takeshi Natsuno, has stated "I believe the iPhone(A phone that uses the traditional TCP/IP model used by desktop computers.) is closer to the mobile phone of the future, compared with the latest Japanese mobile phones."[1]


[edit] Description

Evolution of mobile web standards

In contrast with the WAP standard, which uses WML on top of a protocol stack for wireless handheld devices, i-mode borrows from fixed Internet data formats such as C-HTML based on HTML, as well as DoCoMo proprietary protocols ALP (HTTP) and TLP (TCP, UDP).

i-mode phones have a special i-mode button for the user to access the start menu. There are more than 12,000 official sites and around 100,000 or more unofficial i-mode sites, which are not linked to DoCoMo's i-mode portal page and DoCoMo's billing services. NTT DoCoMo supervises the content and operations of all official i-mode sites, most of which are commercial. These official sites are accessed through DoCoMo's i-mode menu but in many cases official sites can also be accessed from mobile phones by typing the URL or through the use of QR code (a barcode).

An i-mode user pays for both sent and received data. There are services to avoid unsolicited e-mails. The basic monthly charge is typically on the order of JPY ¥200 - ¥300 for i-mode not including the data transfer charges, with additional charges on a monthly subscription basis for premium services. A variety of discount plans exist, for example family discount and flat packet plans for unlimited transfer of data at a fixed monthly charge (on the order of ¥4000/month).

[edit] History

i-mode was launched in Japan on 22 February 1999. The content planning and service design team was led by Mari Matsunaga, while Takeshi Natsuno was responsible for the business development. Top executive Keiichi Enoki oversaw the technical and overall development. A few months after DoCoMo launched i-mode in February 1999, DoCoMo's competitors launched very similar mobile data services: KDDI launched EZweb, and J-Phone launched J-Sky. As of June 2006, these three major mobile data services have over 80 million subscribers in Japan. Vodafone later acquired J-Phone including J-Sky, renaming the service Vodafone Live!, although initially this was different from Vodafone Live! in Europe and other markets. In addition, Vodafone KK was acquired by Softbank, an operator of Yahoo! Japan in October, 2006 and changed the name to Softbank Mobile.

The current i-mode center is called CiRCUS, which consists of 400 NEC NX7000 HP-UX servers and occupies 4600 m² floor space in DoCoMo's Kawasaki office. The operation support system is called CARNiVAL, which is hosted in the Toranomon JT Building.

[edit] Markets

As of June 30, 2006, i-mode has 46.8 million customers in Japan and over 5 million in the rest of the world. i-mode is being provided world-wide through DoCoMo's partners through a licensing scheme[2] involving mobile operators in the following countries: Germany (E-Plus) (phased out), the Netherlands (KPN) (currently phasing out), Belgium (Base), France (Bouygues Télécom), Spain (Telefónica), Italy (Wind), Greece and Romania (Cosmote), Hong Kong (3) and Taiwan (Far East Tone), Singapore (StarHub), Israel (Cellcom) (abandoned in favor of a 3G network solution), Ireland (O2), Bulgaria (Globul), Russia (MTS) and UK (O2) (phased out) have launched i-mode services October 2005. The worldwide partnership is called the i-mode Alliance.

On 18 July 2007, Telstra and O2 announced that they were dropping support for i-mode services.[3][4] Low subscriber numbers were cited as reasons, as was lack of support from some vendors.

The next day, KPN in the Netherlands also announced that it will no longer be launching new i-mode services or mobile phones geared towards i-mode support.[5] Low subscriber numbers were cited as the main reason. i-mode services will continue to be offered, letting the services phase out naturally; The i-mode mobile banking service by the Postbank was also stated to continue to be offered, despite minimal use of the service by subscribers.

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS, Russia) launched their i-mode service in 2005,[6] but a new CEO immediately scaled back plans for a widespread rollout stating "This is not a good situation for MTS ... I do not see any future for it."[7] They stopped selling i-mode capable phones in late-2007 and started rolling back services since 20 February 2008.

E-Plus, the KPN-owned German mobile operator, ended its i-mode service on the 1st of April, 2008.[8]

[edit] Devices

Some typical features include the "clamshell" model with large displays (240x320 pixels) and in many models, a display on either side. Additionally the phones have many extra features, e.g. a megapixel digital camera. The displays normally have 65,536 colors but the newest models have as many as 262,144 colors.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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