Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of semiconductor chip-maker Intel Corp., has invested in a Tokyo-based mobile virtual network operator that is offering nationwide fixed-price wireless access through both wireless LAN and mobile telephone networks.

The investment, the value of which was not disclosed, makes Intel Capital a minority shareholder in Japan Communications Inc. and is aimed at giving a boost to the company, and ultimately the domestic market for wireless data communications, company executives said at a Tokyo news conference on Thursday.

“I am happy to announce we are investing in Japan Communications, JCI, with the idea of adding a level of capability to the use of mobile Centrino technology in this country,” said Claude Leglise, vice-president of Intel Capital. “By combining WiFi and PHS (Personal Handyphone System), JCI will offer owners of notebook computers the ability to access the Internet using wireless networks anywhere in this country.”

JCI’s service is branded B-Mobile and is sold through high-street PC retailers as a prepaid solution bundled with a PHS modem card.

Users have the choice of connecting via either DDI Pocket Inc.’s PHS network, which covers 95 per cent of Japan’s population and offers a top speed of 128kbps, or via a wireless LAN hotspot of one of JCI’s roaming partners. The company already has agreements with several wireless LAN network operators that add up to more than 4,000 hotspots in Japan.

A one-year, unrestricted use subscription to the service costs around