T-Mobile, Europe's second-largest mobile operator, is moving to provide full Internet access on its phones, abandoning the unpopular "walled garden" concept, in which operators give access to their own choice of Web sites.
"With the Google home page, we want tell our customers from the first moment that they are carrying with them the Internet they know from home," said T-Mobile board member Ulli Gritzuhn at a news conference in T-Mobile's Bonn, Germany, headquarters.
Mobile operators have failed for years to persuade subscribers to use their phones for more than calls and text messages. As voice call prices fall, they need to compensate with revenues from Internet usage and.
But the vast majority of customers shun mobile Internet services, such as T-Mobile's "t-zones" and market leader Vodafone's "Live." Those who use them do so rarely, and customer surveys show they do not see much use in them.
"Too expensive, too complicated, too little use--that's our clients' judgment about our current data services," said T-Mobile's Gritzuhn.
T-Mobile expects that mimicking more closely the Internet as people know it from their home or office computers will encourage them to use it for reading news or following eBay auctions while on the move, thus increasing revenues.
As part of its Internet campaign, dubbed "Web'n'walk," T-Mobile will also launch mobile devices with larger displays meant to be better-suited to the Web, and will offer cheaper tariffs to encourage Internet usage, Gritzuhn said.
Web'n'walk will launch in July in Germany and Austria and later this year in Britain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. T-Mobile has not decided yet whether to use Google as a home page in the United States as well.
The devices sold in the campaign are the Sidekick II, a miniature computer that has become a fashion item in the United States after celebritiesstarted using it, and two handheld computers.
Google replaces the old "t-zones" home page only on those devices. Older phones will still use the t-zones because they are not able to display complex Web pages.
T-Mobile will use a Web browser by Norwegian software makeron the Nokia model to make sure Web sites are rendered properly on the small phone display.
T-Mobile expects a high six-digit number of subscribers to use Web'n'walk by the end of 2006 and predicts those subscribers who use it will generate additional revenue of about $12 (10 euros) per month, Gritzuhn said.