If at first you don’t succeed, then try again – or so says NTT DoCoMo. I-mode, NTT’s mobile multimedia messaging service, was launched in Germany, Holland and Belgium almost a year ago by network operator KPN NV (KPN), but consumers weren’t keen. Now, the Japanese mobile network operator is launching i-mode in France and Spain, and is hoping this second European push succeeds.
NTT is confident that it has not missed its window of opportunity in Europe and believes the i-mode service can succeed if it is marketed and priced well. There are 36 million i-mode users worldwide, but only 200,000 are in Europe, according to KPN. It’s no wonder that the Dutch operator could only attract one banal question from a room full of industry watchers after its i-mode presentation at last month’s 3GSM in Cannes, Europe’s biggest mobile telecom conference.
COMMENTARY: What a bunch of boring industry watchers! WWJ got KPN The Netherlands’ CEO Cees van den Heijkant in front of the camera in January and fired all sorts of keen questions (see WWJ video-link below).
This story reports that DoCoMo hasn’t ruled out further equity tie-ups in Europe, and KPN is in talks with Siemens for a new i-mode handset. It also says that i-mode remains a weak competitor to Vodafone and other wireless Internet systems (Vodafone Live is outselling i-mode 3-to-1). Unfortunately, KPN doesn’t have deep marketing pockets. In France, Bouygues sold its stock of 100,000 i-mode handsets over Christmas and will proceed with the launch of a new i-mode terminal, the NEC N22i shortly – largely on the strength of a simple fee structure. Maybe the Dutch can learn from the French who learned from the Japanese? Jupiter Research forecasts 1.5 million i-mode subscribers in Europe by the end of 2003; time will tell.