December 26, 2001, 8:27 AM — Japan's leading cellular carrier, NTT DoCoMo Inc., received a Christmas present Tuesday in the form of the 30 millionth [m] subscription to its I-mode wireless Internet service.
The total number of I-mode subscribers hit the 30 million [m] mark on Christmas Day, the company said. The landmark level was reached just four days after DoCoMo saw total subscribers to its I-Appli service hit 10 million. I-Appli, launched in January 2001, is a Java-based service through which subscribers can download and run small Java-applets on their cellular handsets.
DoCoMo first launched I-mode in February 1999 and has seen the service grow to become the world's most successful wireless Internet service.
The company credits a mixture of attractive content, a charging structure based on the amount of data downloaded, advanced handsets and an easy ability to bill for premium content as the main factors behind the service's strength.
That business model is now being eyed by carriers the world over, envious of DoCoMo's success, as a way to turn around the largely unsuccessful wireless Internet services running elsewhere.
DoCoMo has invested in a small handful of carriers around the world with the intention of sharing some of its expertise, and earlier in December Holland's KPN Mobile NV became the first of those partners to announce plans to launch an I-mode based service. The company and its E-Plus affiliate in Germany are planning to launch I-mode in their home markets in the first half of 2002.