NTT DOCOMO LAUNCHES VIDEO ON 3G, NOKIA ALLIANCE.
DoCoMo, Japan's top mobile operator, said that it would begin a new service on Monday called "i-motion" to deliver short news reports, music videos and sports highlights on a new 3G mobile handset from NEC Corp to go on sale the same day.
Later on Wednesday, the chief executives of DoCoMo and cellphone manufacturing giant Nokia said at a news conference that they would cooperate to set a common standard for viewing Web content on cellphones, sending messages and downloading mini software applications.
DoCoMo, which demonstrated its lead in cellphone technology with the launch of the world's first 3G service last month, is rushing to develop new features to take advantage of the fast speeds that 3G technology offers.
But in the race to get ahead services and hardware are often designed as proprietary systems, making them incompatible with other systems.
To prevent that, DoCoMo, Nokia and other major wireless players and phone makers announced earlier this week a wider consortium at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas to set common and open standards for 3G products and services.
"The point is that we are both working towards a common standard," Keiji Tachikawa, DoCoMo president and chief executive, told the news conference at which the two companies fleshed out the initial steps they would take to harmonise standards.
"It is important to set the standard now. We do not intend to do this with just the two of us, and we invite other companies to join in the standard."
Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chairman and chief executive said: "The theme is about collaboration and openness."
As with most new standards, however, companies that overcome technical hurdles to launch products and services first usually get the best chance to set them.
DoCoMo's new video service, which will play clips of up to 15 seconds and includes audio, is a good example.
It was originally slated to begin with the launch of fully commercial 3G services on October 1, but was put back because of the long lag time between the downloading and playing of video clips.
Takeshi Natsuno, managing director of the department that oversees content for DoCoMo phones, said i-motion was the latest stage in the evolution of the firm's "i-mode" mobile Internet access service, which is available for current and 3G handsets.
"This is an extension of the i-mode service," Natsuno told reporters. "The point is not to deliver video, but to find the best way to deliver content."
DoCoMo's i-mode service boasts nearly 29 million users that browse the Web on credit-card-size screens and has helped put DoCoMo and its suppliers at the forefront of mobile technology.
The i-motion service will be accessable on a new handset, which is an upgrade of NEC's existing 3G mobile phone. The new phone, FOMA N2002, is expected to sell for the same price -- around 40,000 yen ($330) -- as the old one.
The N2002's 2.2-inch screen features 65,536 colours, compared with the existing phone's 4,096, but the two phones are otherwise nearly identical.
Natsuno said the cost of downloading a 100-kilobyte video clip onto the 3G phone is expected to range from 16 yen to 169 yen, depending on the subscription plan.
A DoCoMo official said that i-motion is slated to be a standard feature on all future i-mode-equipped 3G phones.
The service would make up a "significant part" of the 150,000 3G users that DoCoMo expected to sign up by March 2002, as well as the six million 3G users projected over the next two business years, the official said.