UK-based mobile phones group Vodafone and its French media partner, Vivendi, have embarked on ambitious plans to rival leading American brands such as Yahoo! and AOL with their new multiple-access internet portal, Vizzavi, and bring it to the market within two years.
At a Paris launch of the plans to make Vizzavi Europe’s top portal Vivendi’s chairman, Jean-Marie Messier, said the aim was to take away the fear of web-based technology from consumers.
Evan Newmark, the American chief executive of Vizzavi, said: “We want Vizzavi to have its own people, own currency and own culture.”
The portal will be available in the UK in July, France next month, and Germany and Italy by the end of the year.
The new portal, which acts as both an internet search engine and services provider, already has a customer base of 70m in Europe via its parent companies, and will take over the existing portals offered by units such as D2 in Germany.
It is expected to gain lift-off with the growth of the market for new generation mobile phones offering faster data transmission.
Vizzavi will also be available via the Pay-TV service supplied by Canal Plus, a Vivendi subsidiary. Ultimately it would be reached via personal computers. The 50:50 joint venture will see its parents retain 100 per cent of their access revenues while web-based service and content providers will gain 50 per cent. This arrangement will be reviewed in two years, prior to the listing.