NTT, AT&T, SONY TO TEST MULTIMEDIA TELECOM SERVICE

NTT, AT&T, SONY TO TEST MULTIMEDIA TELECOM SERVICE

Japanese telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) will tie up with Sony Corp. and U.S. conglomerate AT&T Corp. to test a multimedia network service in Japan, the companies said on Monday.

The service, using technology from U.S. software firm General Magic Inc., will allow users to send text, graphics, animation and voice messages over ordinary telephone connections using portable communications devices."Today's agreement between our three companies is significant because it will help NTT understand the evolving communications networking needs in Japan," said Junichiro Miyazu, senior executive vice president at NTT.

If the test is successful, the service will be expanded in Japan and it might eventually be linked up with a similar service already operated by AT&T in the United States, another NTT official said.

The test, to begin by the start of next year, is expected to have about 5,000 subscribers. It will combine NTT's network technology, AT&T's experience in developing services and Sony's expertise in consumer electronics marketing, the firms said.

A new Tokyo-based venture, NTT Fan Inc., will conduct the testing. Capitalized at 499 million yen ($5.67 million), it will be owned 44 percent by

NTT and 28 percent each by the other two partners.

During the test, the service will be developed to provide information such as news reports, entertainment listings, business listings and subscriber bulletin boards.

General Magic is a consortium in which the three firms, as well as 12 other major electronics companies, participate. NTT said it had not decided whether any of the other firms in the consortium could join the service in Japan.