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By Gerardo R. Partido

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 5) - The Guam Visitors Bureau plans to support Japanese telecom giant NTT DoCoMo’s purchase of three telecommunications firms in the Marianas.

DoCoMo is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission of its March purchase of Guam Cellular, Saipan Cellular, and Hafa Tel.

The Japanese company has solicited the Guam Visitors Bureau’s support for the FCC approval of its acquisitions.

In the bureau’s last board meeting, Visitors Bureau general manager Gerry Perez informed the board of DoCoMo’s request and asked for guidance from the board.

"While it’s not the Visitors Bureau’s practice to endorse individual companies, DoCoMo’s request is pertinent because of its relation to tourism," Perez said.

He was referring to DoCoMo’s plan to introduce its popular I-mode service on Guam.

I-mode is a wireless Internet service popular in Japan. It has more than 45 million customers in Japan and over 5 million in the rest of the world.

The introduction of I-mode on Guam would enable the thousands of Japanese tourists who visit the island to keep in touch with their homeland.

I-mode uses a light version of HTML used for producing Internet content. Thus, the I-mode mail is interoperable with e-mail, images and sound formats used on the Web.

I-mode users also have access to various services such as e-mail, sports results, weather forecast, games, financial services and ticket booking.

Mark Chamberlin, who will head the merged Guam Cellular and HafaTel companies once the NTT DoCoMo deal is approved by the Federal Communications Commission, confirmed that I-Mode is part of the company’s plans.

"DoCoMo has 56 percent of the Japanese wireless market. This would make it more convenient for the Japanese here. They will be able to access the same content on Guam, Rota, and Saipan, as they would if they were back in Tokyo," Chamberlin told Variety.

Recognizing I-mode’s usefulness, the Visitors Bureau board has given Perez the green light to support DoCoMo’s petition.

However, the Visitors Bureau still has to officially submit a position paper to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The bureau’s position may also be affected by the opposition raised to the petition by local carrier Guam Telephone Authority and several federal agencies.

Guam Telephone Authority, in its position paper submitted to the FCC, said that DoCoMo’s entry into the Guam market presents a risk to national security in light of the build-up of military forces on Guam.

The Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security have also requested the FCC to defer action on DoCoMo’s petition until such time as national security concerns have been adequately reviewed.

[PIR editor’s note: The Japanese firm declared their interest in buying the companies earlier this year.]

July 6, 2006

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