Service will be country's first MVNO

TOKYO — Walt Disney Co. Japan presented its lineup of cell phones to the press on Tuesday and confirmed the launch of its Disney Mobile service on March 1.

Disney first announced the service, which it will operate with Softbank Mobile Corp., in November. It will become Japan’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

Users will have a choice of three handsets, all made by Sharp and all featuring a Mickey Mouse design. They will also be able to use Disney characters to decorate screens and emails free of charge and access Disney websites via a special online bar.

Disney already offers mobile content services, developed in-house for Japan, to more than 3.5 million registered users. But Disney decided not to go it alone in the Japanese market because of the high start-up costs — about 1 trillion yen ($9.43 billion) for a nationwide network of base stations.

Softbank Mobile has been in the mobile communications biz since 1994 and had 17.6 million subscribers by the end of 2007, making it the third-largest mobile network operator in the country. It also has more than 2,500 stores.

Disney’s similar MVNO service failed Stateside.

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