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After a year in preparation, America Online Inc, AOL, will launch in Japan on April 15. AOL is coming to Japan through a three-way joint venture with Mitsui & Co and Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc, Nikkei, split 50-40-10 in AOL, Mitsui and Nihon’s favor. The service will cost about $8 per month for three hours, and about $4 for each additional hour. AOL, not in rude financial health, despite its protestations to the contrary, was not saying how much the development has cost it. AOL has got 30 access points across the country, covering around two-thirds of the population with local access. The remaining third, and those on the road can use another number that costs 10 Yen per minute, or 600 Yen per hour, that’s about $5. The calls themselves are routed straight back to the US from the local Japanese network. AOL says congestion is not really an issue because of the time difference between the two countries – Japan is 14 hours ahead of US Eastern Time. AOL is now claiming 600,000 international subscribers split between the UK, France, Germany, Canada, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. The Dulles, Virginia-based company’s aim is to have 1m international subscribers by September, with Japan playing its part for five months. Content will come from Nikkei and other Japanese publications, as well as AOL Studios Japan.

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