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Mobile

I-Mode's Arrested Development

We don't know what the Japanese word for hiccup is [ed. note: "shakkuri"], but that's what the growth of i-mode subscribers in Europe appears to have suffered in the past three months. The updated customer figures for the European version of NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s (NYSE: DCM) big hit Japanese service are usually paraded in a quarterly press release to coincide with the financial results of Dutch telco KPN. This is because the service is currently offered by the carrier's main mobile businesses, KPN Mobile in the Netherlands and E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH in Germany (see I-Mode Use Doubles in Europe).Back in August, the two carriers had just over 100,000 i-mode subs between them, and already the growth rate was slowing. This time there's no press release, and that's because growth does not appear to be matching expectations. The total is now 143,000, bringing the average monthly net addition down to less than 15,000. This makes the target of 1 million subscribers at some point during 2003 look increasingly absurd.Still, stranger things have happened. After all, the service might be a raging hit in Belgium, where another KPN mobile operation recently launched the service, though no early customer uptake figures are yet available (see Brussels Sprouts I-Mode). But with alternative multi-faceted data services, such as Vodafone Group plc's (NYSE: VOD) Live! service, being rolled out in multiple territories (including Germany and the Netherlands), i-mode might struggle to attract the minds and wallets of Europe's infotainment-hungry users (see Vodafone Goes Live!).— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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