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Germany

World At Your Fingertips

With i-mode users can check airline reservations, download and send pictures or read up on the latest news in the "virtual marketplace".

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Accessing the world while on the move

The mobile phone that has been all the rage for bored Japanese commuters is making its first foray into the German market.

I-mode, a phone that offers fast internet access on a color display, will most likely appear in Germany in either March or April, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo announced on Monday. German mobile service provider E-Plus, the subsidiary of NTT DoCoMo partner Royal KPN, of the Netherlands, will offer the service in Germany.

It marks the first time the i-mode appears outside of Japan, where it has signed up more than 30 million users in less than three years.

NTT DoCoMo is eager to get things moving. The Japanese concern has seen the value of its investments plummet after spending more than 1.8 trillion yen to forge overseas alliances to promote the next generation of wireless services.

Company representatives are hoping for success in the "highly promising" German market, in which E-Plus claims an estimated 7.5 million subscribers.

"A virtual marketplace"

The "i-mode offers an entire palette of services, from entertainment information to business news," said company spokesman Markus Gehmeyer.

The user will be able to access a "virtual marketplace" of sports, news, business or weather from a host of different web sites. They can check their bank balance, check flight availability and call up pictures and send them via e-mail to other cell phones.

Gehmeyer said E-Plus hadn’t worked out how much customers would pay for i-mode. Japanese users pay a monthly service charge of 300 yen (2.5 €) and then pay various prices for the amount of data downloaded and from where.

The Global Packet Radio Services network will host the service at the beginning, but will eventually be replaced by much faster third generation mobile networks, the so-called next generation in wireless services.

Company representatives are hoping to follow a successful launch in the German market with launches in the Netherlands and Belgium as early as April.

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