O2 launches I-Mode tomorrow offering Irish consumers a new take on mobile services with 8o companies already committed to delivering pocket-sized versions of their websites for mobile consumption.
Developed by Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo in 1999, I-Mode is a data-delivery platform for mobile networks that provides fast and secure access to compatible websites tailored for mobile devices. The company has set up country-exclusive deals with operators in 14 other countries with O2 in Ireland as the latest addition.
Strong local content will include all of Ireland’s newspapers, AIB and Paddy Power. Worldres.com, Daft.ie and Interflora are also onboard offering interactive and some transactional services on safe and secure sites. Aer Arann offers a flight-booking facility; Argus will let you reserve a car. There is also strong support from stalwart mobile content providers in the game and ringtone space.
Charges of one cent per kilobyte are only incurred when content is downloaded by users. The size of the pages is determined by the I-Mode partners who also have the option of charging for subscription services for specialised content or other downloads such as ringtones. An I-Email service is also available.
O2 chief executive Danuta Gray told silcionrepublic.com that I-Mode is “a different type of service” to anything offered by its competitors, targeted at a slightly older demographic, a response to listening to customers who want “something more pragmatic that helps them run their lives”.
“Our customers have told us they want a fast internet service, which is always on and always available at the touch of a button. This is I-Mode,” she said. “It’s a service that offers a wider range of content that is accessible more quickly and offers a better all-round customer experience.”
O2 also believes it can play a part in increasing internet acceptance in Ireland. “I-Mode is the world’s most widely used mobile internet service. Following its introduction in Japan in 1999, it drove internet penetration levels up from 18pc to 78pc in the space of 5 years,” said Gray. “Currently Ireland’s low levels of internet penetration means that 63pc of homes have no form of internet access and of these households, 60pc state that the reason why they won’t get internet access is because they don’t have a PC and they perceive it to be too expensive.
“A recent Commission for Communications Regulation survey revealed that 24pc of homes are now mobile only, with no fixed-line subscription. I believe this backdrop highlights the extent of the opportunity for I-Mode to have a dramatic impact in the rise of internet access penetration in Ireland.”
The O2 service will be available in postpay and prepay packages, with three I-Mode compatible handsets available from launch. The NEC N3431 and Samsung S500I are 2.5G phones, selling at €29 and €99 with a postpay tariff. The third model, the Samsung Z3201, is also O2’s first 3G handset priced at €129 postpay. The faster speeds of the 3G network will enhance the I-Mode service but O2 remains cagey about additional 3G content. There is a possibility that new services, comparable to Vodafone and 3 video downloads, might appear before Christmas but for now O2 is backing I-Mode as the definitive mobile content experience.
Existing users of non I-Mode phones can continue to avail of O2 Active, the network’s existing content delivery platform but O2 openly talked of I-Mode as “a much better experience”.
By Ian Campbell