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New Mobile Phones Delayed in Japan

May 22, 2001

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SINGAPORE (AP) _ Japan’s top mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo will not cover all of Japan with full third-generation mobile phone services for at least three years, a top executive of the company said Tuesday.

Keiichi Enoki, managing director of the company’s gateway business department, said at a digital economy seminar in Singapore that his company will continue in the meantime to offer its popular ``i-mode″ service on the existing mobile network.

I-mode has attracted 23 million customers, who are reading the news, exchanging e-mail and downloading pictures on their cellphones.

Enoki said customers would not buy the 3G service unless they were guaranteed full coverage everywhere in Japan.

``So we will roll out our 3G service gradually, until we cover the whole nation,″ Enoki said. ``We have to wait three years.″

Third generation service will relay video clips and music over cellphones.

NTT DoCoMo had initially promised to begin rolling out its 3G service this month, but has delayed it until October because of software glitches.

Telecoms companies are paying huge fees for 3G licenses while they try to develop the service, but many industry-watchers consider this to be a gamble on an untested future market.

Singapore’s government recently sold three 3G licenses for 100 million Singapore dollars ($55 million) each.

European telecommunications companies have spent billions of dollars on 3G licenses.

Enoki said 3G technology has high potential in markets where there is already a big culture of mobile phone use.

Because mobile phones are mainly used by business people in the United States, 3G will not take off there as quickly as in Asia and Europe, where the phones have made more inroads into the consumer market, he said.

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