A joint venture of several mobile technology companies, mTLD, has announced that it will start issuing internet domain names under the .mobi top-level domain name.

The name will be up and running next year. It is intended for sites designed for phones and other mobile devices.

The group – which comprises Microsoft, Nokia, the GSM (global system for mobile communications) association, Vodafone Group and several others – has completed a contract with Icann (the internet corporation for assigned names and numbers) that formalises the creation of the .mobi domain.

After it creates a registry service, 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 the name for the next 10 years.

By creating a specialised mobile internet domain, the company hopes to foster more mobile use of the internet, said Rick Fant, an mTLD board member.

"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. He 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 styleguide that includes things 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 them, he added. The styleguide 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,"
Fant said.

Domain names will cost about €15 (£10) 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.

Icann could not immediately be reached for comment.