Japan’s dominant mobile operator NTT DoCoMo [NYSE: DCM] has announced its move into the Italian cellular market with yesterday’s confirmation that it has struck up a strategic partnership with Enel [NYSE: EN] subsidiary Wind. The agreement is DoCoMo’s latest addition to its expanding line-up of alliances across Europe that also includes ventures with Bouygues in France, KPN in the Netherlands and Telefónica Moviles of Spain. The new five-year agreement will see DoCoMo licence its wireless internet service i-mode, the 2.5G offering that dominates the Japanese mobile market, to Wind for an Italian launch before the end of the year. Wind is to offer the i-mode service on its GPRS network, with assistance provided by DoCoMo, and will also offer pan-European roaming between the Japanese cellco’s other partner operators. The Italian cellco also plans to make the service compatible with its 3G network, scheduled for launch in 2004.
Wind, which also offers fixed line services, is currently third-placed of three in Italy’s highly competitive mobile market. A fourth operator, Blu – the sector’s newest and smallest cellco – was broken up and sold-off last year, as the global telecoms slump impacted heavily upon the country’s cellcos. Wind hopes that the phenomenal success of i-mode in Japan, where it has more than 35 million users, can help it expand its customer base from the 8.7 million it reported at the end of 2002 and close the gap between itself and market leaders Telecom Italia Mobile and Vodafone.