Wireless content providers from Japan look to Europe

Japanese wireless content providers are laying the groundwork to bring their wireless content services to the European market, starting with Spanish wireless operator Telefónica Móviles SA, according to Mitsui & Co. Ltd.

Four Japanese wireless content providers, Yamaha Corp., Taito Corp., Chescom International Co. Ltd. and Mindwave Inc., will participate in the service, which is expected to be launched at the end of January and will be operated by Mitsui, said a Mitsui spokesman who declined to give his name. Other Japanese content providers are expected to join the service soon, he added.

With 48 million subscribers, Japan's wireless Internet services lead the world in terms of the variety of content that they offer. Mitsui is betting that European users will be attracted to similar services, the spokesman said.

Telefónica Móviles' wireless Internet subscribers will be able to browse six different content sites offered by the service. The sites will offer ringer tone downloads, games, a fortune teller, electronic greeting cards, and two screensaver download services through a portal site run by Mitsui, the spokesman said.

The cost of content from each site ranges from €0.50 (US$0.44) to €1 on a monthly subscription basis, and Mitsui expects to see annual sales from the service of ¥10 billion ($75 million) in three years' time, he said.

Content to be offered by the service is not compatible with handsets currently available from Telefónica Móviles. However, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. which is expected to launch a handset at around the same time that the service starts which will be compatible with the service, the Mitsui spokesman said.

The Mitsubishi Electric handset will be the first and only handset that allows users to access the sites, the Mitsui spokesman said. From the second quarter, new handsets that are compatible with the service will be available from other major handset makers, such as Sweden's L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., U.S.-based Motorola Inc., and France's Alcatel SA, he said.

The wireless content service will initially be available in Spanish for Telefónica Móviles users in Spain and South America, and Mitsui hopes to expand the service to cover other European countries and other European carriers, the spokesman said. At present, Mitsui has no plans to enter the U.S. market, as demand for content-based services is different from the Japanese and European markets, he said.

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