Taiwan's KG Telecom (KGT) on Tuesday said it had signed up 22,000 i-mode subscribers in the three months since the service was launched, and planned to hit 50,000 by the end of the year. KGT officials said total market penetration of the wireless Internet platform was 0.1 per cent, compared with 0.17 per cent for the same period after the service was first launched in Japan in 1999. About 0.5 per cent of KGT's total subscribers now use i-mode. The top three services for i-mode are ring tones, graphics downloads and real-time news. Mobile map services and fortune-telling are other top applications. Both ring tones and graphics are not unique to i-mode and are offered by each of Taiwan's other global system for mobile communications (GSM) phone operators as well as personal handyphone system (PHS) operator First International Telecom. The company said it was not concerned customers were sticking to familiar applications and not making use of the wider array of services on offer. KGT's director of product innovation, Roger Chen, said 'i-mode does it better, and that's the critical part'. He predicted the product mix would change as the service matured, but said the same top applications would remain high. In December, the company is expected to launch a handset featuring built-in java, allowing greater interactivity. The availability of java was expected to boost demand for gaming, map services and real-time stock trading, Mr Chen said. The i-mode content platform is delivered over KGT's general packet radio services (GPRS) network, a data-delivery technology that uses existing GSM networks. Growth in i-mode subscriptions has taken its GPRS subscriber base to 52,000, according to the company. KGT claims 4.15 million revenue-producing subscribers, a figure doubted by some local telecom analysts. While subscriber numbers are relatively low, KGT is buoyed by the trend towards increased spending from its i-mode subscribers. Company figures yesterday showed i-mode subscribers made 17 per cent more outbound voice calls since signing up for the service. The availability of wireless Internet and e-mail appears to have boosted rather than stunted short message service (SMS) use, with i-mode subscribers posting a 16.4 per cent increase in SMS messaging. Having pulled out of the race for a third-generation licence at the start of the year, KGT is betting on i-mode to give it a leg up in the wireless data business. KGT is the island's fourth-ranked mobile phone provider and the only island-wide operator not to have secured a 3G licence. In 2000 Japan's NTT DoCoMo took a 20 per cent stake in KGT and trumpeted the move as a prelude to their 3G ambitions in Taiwan. NTT DoCoMo, the founder and owner of the i-mode service, has licensed the platform to operators in Asia, Europe and North America. The company usually takes an equity stake in local operators as part of the licensing agreement. Last year it took a 19 per cent stake in Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa in preparation for an i-mode launch in the SAR this year.