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DoCoMo weighs UK i-mode switch

DoCoMo has almost 40 million i-mode customers in Japan.
DoCoMo has almost 40 million i-mode customers in Japan.

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(CNN) -- Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo will look for another partner in the UK if 3 UK does not adopt its i-mode platform, according to the Financial Times newspaper.

I-mode has been hugely successful in Japan, but there is speculation that 3, controlled by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, is not keen on the platform.

I-mode is not full third-generation technology, but allows its 40 million mobile customers in Japan to access a variety of popular services via a simple one-touch format. It also supports a micro-payments mechanism -- a key attribute for carriers.

It has already been adopted by DoCoMo's European partners, including Holland's KPN, Spain's Telefonica and Italy's Wind.

A spokesperson for DoCoMo, quoted by the FT, said the company had been asking 3 for a decision on adopting I-mode for "four or five months".

If 3 chose not to go with i-mode, DoCoMo would have to look for another opportunity with another operator in the UK, the spokesperson said.

Shares in DoCoMo, which has the largest market capitalization on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, are 1 percent higher Tuesday afternoon at 297,000 yen.

DoCoMo holds 20 percent of 3 UK. The other partners are KPN with 15 percent and Hutchison with the remaining 65 percent.

3 UK's relations with KPN are strained after it refused to provide its $240 million share of $1.6 billion in loans that the 3 network sought from shareholders in March.

DoCoMo provided its $320 million proportion, while Hutchison was forced to increase its share from $1.04 billion to $1.28 billion to make up for KPN.

Hutchison, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, has since begun action against KPN for damages. In turn, KPN wants to unload its stake in 3 UK.


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