In a bid to halt the ongoing demise of fixed phone services, the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone group on Friday launched L-mode, a text-based Internet browsing service that does not require a computer.

NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. have been hit by decreasing revenues from their fixed-line phone services, and the total number of mobile-phone users has exceeded that of conventional phones.

L-mode is a fixed-line version of the i-mode service provided by cellular operator NTT DoCoMo Inc.

I-mode boasts more than 24.5 million subscribers nationwide.

NTT East and NTT West aim to capture between 1.5 million and 2 million users during L-mode’s initial year.

The main target appears to be housewives. In a debut event in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, guest singer Aki Yashiro called up the L-mode menu and ordered the delivery of several boxed lunches.

Users can call up 17 basic menus on a base phone’s display screen, including weather reports, banking, shopping, restaurant information, news and entertainment.

Subscribers can send and receive mail of up to 2,000 characters.

Users can browse World Wide Web sites if the pages are composed in a simplified version of Hyper Text Markup Language, or HTML.

The service involves a basic monthly charge of 200 yen for the NTT group plus another 100 yen for a third-party Internet connection supplier.

The long road to launching the new business has been rocky thus far.

The regional NTT companies have changed their business schemes to entrust the charging system for interprefectural connection services to a third-party supplier, as demanded by the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

The NTT group was divided in July 1999 to promote domestic competition, with NTT East and NTT West prohibited by law from engaging in interprefectural services.

New NTT unit formed

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. established Friday a wholly owned subsidiary specializing in creating marketplaces for broadband business.

NTT Broadband Initiative Inc., a key strategic company of the NTT group, will link content providers and consumers by offering distribution and charging platforms based on optical fiber networks, Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines and other broadband networks.

The company, capitalized at 3.5 billion yen, plans to start a test service to offer moving images, music and other contents in Tokyo and Osaka in autumn. It will start full-scale operations the following spring.

NTT Broadband will initially offer services for the group’s optical fiber Internet connection business, but it will not exclude other companies offering broadband services, the company said.

President Junichiro Miyazu said NTT has two key strategic focuses — charge reduction and promoting broadband business based on optical fiber networks.

“I hope the establishment of this company will be an epoch-making event,” he said.

in the history of the telecommunications industry,” he said during a news conference Friday.

Hiromi Wasai, former board member of NTT Corp., is president of the new subsidiary, which has a staff of 60.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.