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O2 secures top brand content partners for i-mode launch

New UK mobile Internet service gains widespread support

Mobile phone operator O2 has announced a broad selection of high profile content partners who have all signed up for the UK launch of i-mode in October.

Originally created by Japan's largest mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo, i-mode is a fast, secure and highly accessible alternative to WAP, which has proven incredibly successful in more than twenty countries worldwide.

O2 will be launching the service exclusively in the UK on October 1st, with the announcement of more than a hundred content providers offering free, per download and subscription based services from the outset. Additional content partners and new, location-based services are expected to be added from November.

Designed to be as simple and cost effective as possible both for consumers and content providers, i-mode sites are constructed using compact HTML and can be built for as little as GBP 10K, therefore avoiding the immediate pressure of subscription revenues. The speed and accessibility of i-mode should enable companies to develop a diverse range of original content and services.

Ringtones, wallpapers and games will be offered on the service, of course, with companies such as Capcom, Jamdat, SEGA, Namco and Taito all signed up to provide content - many of them being veterans of the i-mode service in Japan, with a wealth of content developed for that market and ready to roll out in the UK.

The most recent content announcement for the service is an Atari arcade channel, which is being presented by mobile publisher iFone and will feature games including Asteroids, Breakout and Pong, as well as wallpapers, screen savers and a range of competitions for users of the channel, which is being offered for a mere GBP 3.

Looking beyond gaming offerings, the service has attracted interest from Egg, the UK's largest online banking service. Customers can securely check balances on credit cards and savings accounts, and Egg is developing a system for balance transfers and bill payment, allowing customers to move money and sort out their finances without the need for a phone call or use of traditional fixed Internet site.

Commercial interest from lastminute.com and online gadget store I Want One Of Those allows users to browse catalogues and purchase goods in much the same way as fixed Internet sites, offering a far more sophisticated mobile Internet service than is currently available in the UK. Customers will also be able to book dinner reservations, hotels - even flights and short breaks when the service is launched.

Constantly updated news and information services will be available from companies such as CNN, Reuters and Sky News, as well as financial updates and investment profiles from Financial Times and Bloomberg.com.

Due to the sophistication of the system, O2 will be launching i-mode on a selection of four handsets initially, which will be available for purchase to pre-pay customers and as a free upgrade for post-pay (contract) customers in October.

Full details regarding the content partners, service charges and handset availability will be announced over the coming weeks as part of O2's national advertising campaign.

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