I-Mode could hit 17m subscribers by year's end

If subscriber growth continues at the current rate, NTT DoCoMo may have 17 million subscribers to its I-mode wireless internet service by year's end.

          If subscriber growth continues at the current rate, NTT DoCoMo may have 17 million subscribers to its I-mode service by year's end.

          On Dec. 17, I-mode, the Japanese carrier's wireless internet service, had 16.36 million subscribers, up from 15.94 million on Dec. 10. This suggests that 417,000 new subscribers signed up for the service during the one-week period, according to statistics posted on DoCoMo's web site.

          The rate at which the service adds new users appears to be accelerating. During the previous week, from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10., 366,000 new subscribers were added, while 349,000 subscribers were added from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3, according to DoCoMo's estimates.

          If the trend continues, I-mode should be able to reach the 17 million subscriber mark by year's end, solidifying the Japanese mobile phone operator's lead in the wireless Internet arena. The service is already the largest wireless Internet service of its kind in the world.

          By next month, I-mode is scheduled to get a Java injection. At the Telecom Asia 2000 exhibition held in Hong Kong earlier this month, DoCoMo showcased six prototype handsets featuring support for the Java programming language. The first Java-enabled handsets are scheduled to go for sale in January, company officials said.

          The handsets, including one from Sony featuring an advanced full-color display, will allow users to download applications such as games from the Internet to personalize their handsets. Officials also said that Java will enable more secure transactions.

          NTT DoCoMo, in Tokyo, can be contacted via the Web at http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/.

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