NTT DoCoMo Inc. will begin a trial service as early as February to allow subscribers to its FOMA third-generation mobile phone system to communicate with personal computer users on videophones, sources close to the company said Saturday.

The move, with a full service scheduled to start by the end of the year at the earliest, will allow FOMA users to participate, for example, in company meetings even if they are away from their workplaces or to send video images to their family at home from different locations.

At present, FOMA users can see and speak with each other through video monitors attached to handsets for about 50 yen a minute.

Users can also send video images to some users of NTT DoCoMo’s personal handy-phone system services and fixed phones allied to its integrated services digital network services.

The major Japanese mobile phone carrier hopes the new service will increase the popularity of the 3G service, introduced in October 2001.

Under the plan, PC users will be able to link up with FOMA users if they buy a PC camera, which costs about 5,000 yen.

NTT DoCoMo has not yet decided on rates for the service.

The company will launch a trial service as early as next month with some users of its broadband service, the NTT Broadband Initiative.

FOMA handsets will need to register the PC recognition numbers to which they call, while those calling from PCs at homes or offices will log in mobile phone numbers.

FOMA, short for freedom of mobile multimedia access, allows high-speed data transmission via Internet mobile phones.

But sales of handsets with FOMA functions have so far remained sluggish, partly because the area covered by the service is still limited.

Combined subscriptions to FOMA-based handsets came to 152,000 units as of late 2002.

The company has revised downward its cumulative sales target through March 31 to 320,000 units from its initial target of 1.38 million units.

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