I-Mode spreading

Belgian and French business partners of NTT DoCoMo Inc. will start providing i-mode Internet-capable mobile phone services, company officials said Monday.

The Belgian company, Base NV/SA, a wholly owned subsidiary of KPN Mobile N.V. of the Netherlands, will begin offering i-mode in Belgium late this month. NTT DoCoMo has an equity stake in KPN Mobile.

The French firm, Bouygues Telecom S.A., will kick off the service in mid-November. NTT DoCoMo will charge Bouygues for use of the technology.

At present, various NTT DoCoMo partners are providing i-mode services in Germany, the Netherlands and Taiwan. The company plans to arrange for a company to provide the service in Spain starting next year.

DoCoMo still on top

NTT DoCoMo Inc. maintained the top spot in terms of new cellular phone subscriptions for the month of September with a net rise of 239,000 subscribers, an industry body said Monday.

According to the Telecommunications Carriers Association, the nation’s top mobile carrier fell to third place in May but saw subscriptions recover due to handset discounts and the popularity of new models that offer photograph-taking functions.

KDDI Corp., which sells cellular phones under the au brand, saw the number of new subscribers minus cancellations increase by 122,600 during the month, while net subscribers to J-Phone Co. rose by 100,200.

The Tu-ka Group saw a net fall of 4,000.

There were roughly 77.71 million cellular and personal handyphone subscribers in September, accounting for a 0.6 percent increase from the previous month, the association said. Of this figure, about 72.8 million were cell phone users.