NTT DoCoMo is planning to provide money to six cellular telephone makers to help them develop advanced handsets based on the Symbian and Linux operating systems and high-speed data communications technology.

The company will provide a total of ¥37 billion (US$344 million) between April 2004 and March 2006 to Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola Japan, NEC, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Sharp, said Takuya Ori, a spokesman for NTT DoCoMo in Tokyo.

The money will be used towards development work on handsets that run the Symbian and Linux operating systems and are compatible with its WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) based Foma service and the yet-to-be-launched HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) data communications technology.

HSDPA increases the downstream data speed from the current 384 Kbit/s (to up to 14 Mbit/s and NTT DoCoMo hopes to launch a service based on the technology in 2005.

By providing the money, NTT DoCoMo helps manufacturers reduce their own development costs on what are becoming increasingly expensive handsets and also gets shared ownership of the technology developed. This is hoped to ease and speed further development in the future, the company said.

NTT DoCoMo selected the six companies because, according to Ori: "We thought they could actually develop handsets based on the operating system and HSDPA within two years."

With the exception of Motorola the five companies are the same ones that have been supplying handsets to NTT DoCoMo for its Foma service to date. Missing from the list was Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, which has so far produced no handsets for Foma. There is a possibility the company will join the list at a later date, said Ori.

In October 2001, NTT DoCoMo launched its Foma service which initially failed to attract a large number of subscribers due largely to a small selection of bulky handsets with short battery life. A new range of telephones launched at the beginning of this year proved a turning point and subscriptions began steadily rising. The service had 1.7 million subscribers as of 11 December, said the company.