Japan's NTT DoCoMo topped off a successful year for its I-mode wireless Internet service by seeing subscriptions break the 17 million mark, the company said Thursday - that's compared to a WAP take-up of just five million - and could signal a move for companies to migrate the technology to the UK to prop up the ailing WAP market.
The total number of subscriptions to I-mode hit 17 million on December 28, company spokeswoman Yuki Isono said. Since the beginning of 2000, DoCoMo has seen about 13.5 million customers log on to the service for the first time and is now contending with about 350,000 new subscribers a week to the service.
I-mode was launched on February 22, 1999, and had attracted approximately 3.5 million subscribers by the end of 1999. As the new subscribers came on board and I-mode was included in more telephones, the amount of content available began to steadily grow, attracting even more subscribers.
The most recent statistics on the service, released by DoCoMo in early December, show a total of 721 information providers are responsible for the 1,280 sites that make up the main I-mode menu, while a further 31,085 I-mode sites created by third parties and individuals also exist.
DoCoMo's announcement came just over a week after DDI, its biggest competitor, announced the number of subscriptions to its EZweb service had passed five million. EZweb is a service based on WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and was launched by Au, DDI's cellular unit, in April 1999. DDI said there are currently more than 500 sites that are part of the EZweb network.
J-Phone Communication, the wireless unit of Japan Telecom and Japan's third major cellular carrier, had just under four million subscribers on its J-Sky service at the end of November, according to the most recent data from the Telecommunications Carriers Association.
However, the technology - which offers more advanced version of WAP - it yet to hit the UK.