i-mode Hits 3 Million Foreign Users
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jul 09 16:15:00 GMT 2004

NTT DoCoMo says that it now has 3 million i-mode users outside Japan, just four months after it gained its 2 millionth customer.

Eight carriers outside the country now offer i-mode services in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Taiwan, and DoCoMo is calling i-mode "the most popular mobile Internet service in the world," thanks mainly to its 41.7 million Japanese users. Vodafone live! had 7.5 million users at the end of March, and 13 million in Japan on the rebranded J-Sky service.

i-mode appears to be finding a niche in Europe, particularly with second-tier operators looking to capitalize on economies of scale by linking up in some way with other small carriers. i-mode now has a presence in most major European markets, bar the UK -- where DoCoMo is searching for a partner, though a link-up with mmO2 would make sense.

While Vodafone live! might continue to lead in subscriber figures, i-mode could emerge as a valuable tool for Europe's smaller carriers to band together to compete with larger rivals like Vodafone and T-Mobile.