A joint venture of mobile technology companies, mTLD Top Level Domain will start issuing Internet domain names under a new .mobi top-level domain name from next year.

The company, which was formed by Microsoft, Nokia, the GSM Association, Vodafone and other heavy hitters, has completed a contract with ICANN that formalized the creation of the .mobi domain; mTLD expects to begin issuing .mobi domain names in the first half of next year. It has been contracted to provide the registry service for .mobi for the next ten years, mTLD said.

The .mobi domain is intended for sites that are designed to be used on cell phones and other mobile devices. The company hopes to foster more mobile use of the Internet, said Rick Fant, a member of the board of mTLD.

"The issue we are trying to solve is that the average mobile user has mobile Internet access but doesn't know it or doesn't want to try it," Fant said. Fant expects users to find out about .mobi sites through advertising and search engines.

"When you see .mobi at the end of a service, you know it's designed to work with a mobile device," he said. Fant sees phones eventually appending the .mobi suffix to site addresses automatically, saving users the trouble of entering it via a numeric keypad.

As part of its contracts with companies that use the domain names, mTLD will require they follow a style guide that includes requirements such as the ability to use a site on a low-bandwidth connection, Fant said. Those requirements will be largely self-policed, but it will be in the best interests of all parties for site operators to follow the guidelines, Fant said. The style guide should include rules about flagging adult content, he said.

"In cases of very flagrant violation, I'm sure we will pull them from the namespace," he said.

Domain names will cost about €15 per year, according to Fant. For the first three months after they become available, there will be a "sunrise" period in which trademark owners can reserve their names.