CosmOTE introduces i-mode

Greece’s top mobile phone operator CosmOTE is betting on an Olympic boost for its new i-mode service to give it an edge over rivals hot on its heels with their own multimedia offerings. CosmoOTE hopes that i-mode, an Internet service that is a runaway success in Japan but struggling to catch on in Europe, will entice people to use their handsets to send e-mails about world records, swap Games photos and check out websites offering information on special events. Details are expected to be announced later this month but competition will be tough. Rivals Vodafone, which launched its popular Live! multimedia service in Greece last year, and Stet Hellas will also be offering Olympic content on their handsets. Analysts said mimicking i-mode’s Japanese success in Greece will depend in part on how well CosmOTE markets a service that differs little from its own smaller MyCosmos mobile portal and Vodafone’s and Stet Hellas’s multimedia offerings. CosmOTE has ploughed an extra 50 million euros ($61 million) into upgrading its network for the Olympics, boosting capacity in the Athens region by 40 percent and allowing it to service an additional 1 million mobile users. It remains to be seen whether its four new i-mode phones, which hit Greek stores earlier this month, will turn into the lucrative communications lifelines that CosmOTE is banking on. I-mode allows users to send e-mails and photos, chat, play games, download ringtones and access information from thousands of mobile websites. But early sales in Europe were hit by a poor selection of handsets and a complex tariff structure. Sales are picking up with the help of aggressive promotions of rival mobile multimedia services, which allow consumers to get to grips with more complex handsets and their services. One such service is Vodafone’s Live!, which has gleaned about 274,000 users in Greece since its launch in January last year. (Reuters)