O2 announced yesterday that it will begin offering I-mode, the mobile internet service created by Japanese NTT DoCoMo, in the UK from Saturday.

O2 also launched four phones designed for I-mode made by Samsung and NEC.

The operator has its own content portal but describes I-mode as a service that allows customers to do many of the same functions they do on the internet today, such as banking, shopping and buying tickets. O2's existing portal, by contrast, is meant to offer entertainment and information services, according to the company's statement.

O2 will start offering I-mode in Ireland next week and in Germany during the first half of next year.

I-mode was initially expected to be introduced by Three, Hutchison's 3G network, in the UK because NTT DoCoMo once had an ownership stake in Three. However, reports surfaced in 2003 that NTT DoCoMo was looking for a different partner. In early 2004, NTT DoCoMo announced its intention to sell its stake in Three.

I-mode was first launched in Europe in 2002 by E-Plus Mobilfunk in Germany. The service is now available in seven countries, not including O2's upcoming introductions.