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NTT DoCoMo Inc. is pushing to expand its FOMA third-generation mobile phone services into medical and nursing care, construction and other business areas to compensate for sluggish demand in personal communications, company officials said Friday.

“FOMA can be useful in providing medical and nursing services to a distant place such as an isolated island. We want to present various business models with FOMA to expand the use of the system among corporate users,” said Managing Director Kunio Ushioda.

FOMA — short for “freedom of mobile multimedia access” — features handsets that can handle high-speed data transmission and also access scaled-down Internet pages. NTT DoCoMo, the nation’s leading mobile phone service operator, introduced the 3G mobile phone system in October 2001.

Sales of handsets with FOMA functions have so far remained sluggish, reaching around 130,000 units as of early September, against a target of 1.38 million units by March 31, 2003.

According to the NTT DoCoMo officials, the company is thus stepping up its efforts to expand into new markets.

A clinic in Shibuya, central Tokyo, introduced a FOMA-based videophone system on a trial basis this summer. It provides medical consultant services such as prescribing drugs for its corporate customers, including foreign companies.

Kiyohiko Matsumoto, director of the clinic, Southern Terrace Clinic, said, “It’s useful. I can show drugs to my patients on the (handset) screen and can avoid misunderstandings.”

The NTT DoCoMo officials said there has been a similar test-run operation set up in Tokyo through which a hospital answers inquiries about children’s health problems from a nursing school.

They also said major construction companies such as Taisei Corp. and Takenaka Corp. have launched FOMA-based communication between offices and construction-site workers.

A security firm at a festival in December 2001 used FOMA handsets for communication between security guards at the festival site and the head office.

It apparently proved to be useful for a variety of tasks such as dealing with lost children in crowds. The firm plans to use FOMA for the service at this year’s festival as well, the officials added.

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