a-week-in-tech-april-30may-6

A week in tech, April 30-May 6

A roundup of the latest tech news.
Japan

Semiconductors
Eiko Trading Corporation has signed a sales contract with Yingli Green Energy Holding, under which the Chinese company will supply 17.35MW of PV modules to Eiko for planned projects in Germany. The shipment will be delivered between April and November this year. Eiko is engaged in the development and installation of PV systems in Japan as well as consulting, trading and investing in renewable energy projects with global partners. The company is looking to expand overseas and says Germany stands out as one of the most important long-term markets.

Telecommunications
Softbank has acquired a 14% stake in privately-owned Chinese internet company Oak Pacific at a cost of $96 million. The aim is for Softbank to create a stronger presence in China's internet market. Under the terms of the deal, the Japanese operator has the right to exercise stock warrants for another Ñ30 billion ($288 million) a year. This option will allow Softbank to raise its stake in Oak Pacific to 40%, making it the largest shareholder.

NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile-phone operator, plans to sell about Ñ100 billion ($958 million) of bonds in its first issuance in five years, to fund dividend payments and share buybacks. The debt sale will help DoCoMo meet its pledge to pay about Ñ200 billion of dividends and buy back as much as Ñ150 billion worth of shares in the year ending March 31, 2009. The company's inflow of cash has been shrinking after the wireless carrier began allowing customers to pay for mobile phones services in installments.

Nakayo Telecommunications said its sales reached Ñ17.8 billion ($169.9 million) in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008, exceeding the companyÆs forecast by 3.2%. The operating loss amounted to Ñ218 million, which is less than the expected Ñ380 million. Net income is valued at Ñ116 million, 16% above the companyÆs forecast.

KDDI R&D Laboratories has developed an optical communications technology that enables data to be transmitted over regular Ethernet networks at speeds of 100 gigabits per second and for distances as far as 1,000km without the need for signal correction. The Ethernet protocol is the standard for office and home LANs. Data can now be sent at 10Gbps by using a bundle of 10 lines and a set of 10 transceivers. But looking toward the future, the telecommunications industry is developing the means of transmitting data at 100Gbps, hoping to have systems in operation in the early 2010s.

Korea

Telecommunications
Korean telecom operator SK Telecom has denied rumours that it will form a joint venture with China Telecom to develop CDMA business. The telecom operator said it will not take any steps before the restructuring of China's telecom industry. However, the company's collaboration with China Unicom will continue. Some analysts also think foreign telecom companies will be cautious about developing TD-SCDMA (ChinaÆs homegrown 3G technology) as the restructuring schedule has not yet been confirmed.

Subscribers to third generation video mobile communications services have surpassed 10 million across Korea. Industry sources say mobile carrier KTF's 3G service Show added 440,000 new users last month for a total of 5.28 million subscribers. SK Telecom's T Live added 470,000 new customers, bringing the total number to 4.68 million. LG Telecom's Revision A added 190,000 users.

KT Corporation is keen on acquiring mobile operators in emerging markets, according to a senior company executive. The carrier is betting on overseas mobile investments, which require less time and cost than fixed-line businesses, and plans to enter emerging markets through mergers and acquisitions rather than through greenfield investments. The move comes as competition for mobile assets in developing markets is intensifying as more and more major operators in developed markets are looking for investment opportunities in emerging mobile markets.

Hardware
Samsung Electronics plans to outsource the assembly of some of its LCD modules to Chinese television maker TLC Corporation starting from 2009. Guangdong-based TCL recently began building a module plant in its home province, which is expected to have an annual capacity of 22.3 million units. Samsung Electronics announced strong quarterly earnings last week, with its display division posting better-than-expected profits. The company will invest W1.8 trillion ($1.8 billion) this year to build a new LCD line at a plant that it operates together with Sony Corporation of Japan.

Samsung SDI became the worldÆs top seller of plasma displays in the first quarter, beating its domestic and Japanese rivals. Samsung SDI's PDP sales in the January-March period amounted to $451 million, which accounted for 31.8% of the global PDP market. Samsung SDI was trailed by domestic rival LG Electronics, which sold $419 million worth of PDPs and had a 29.5% market share. JapanÆs Matsushita Electric Industrial Co was third with sales worth $417 million.
China

Technology
A group of leading Chinese consumer electronics (CE) companies has formed an industry consortium whose mission it is to build and drive the adoption of the next-generation interactive television and home CE networking interface. This technology was tagged as DIVA, or Digital Interface for Video and Audio. DIVA technology embeds a reliable, high-speed bi-directional data transmission channel to allow the consumer to locate, connect and control various CE devices from a DIVA-enabled digital television (DTV). DIVA interface will help streamline and simplify the connections among all technologies. Leveraging a single interface, the DIVA standard promises to upgrade home networks to a new level, making DTVs the centre of the home entertainment network.

Telecommunications
China Mobile and Samsung Electronics have contributed 15,000 TD-SCDMA mobile phones, the required SIM cards and almost Rmb3 million ($400,000) worth of communications fees to the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympics. The two companies will also provide the relevant communications services. The phones will be used by officials and staff during the games, enabling them to receive information, watch mobile television and video-on-demand programs, and access broadband Internet surfing services.

Mobile/Wireless
China surpassed India in 2007 as the country that added the most new mobile subscribers in a single year. The world's most populous nations are also among the fastest growing mobile markets, producing some 320 million new mobile phone subscribers in 2007 alone, an increase of more than 25%. China's mobile operators added about 2 million more new subscribers than India's wireless carriers, which helped the country maintain its position as the world's largest mobile market.

Software
China's software outsourcing market was worth Rmb3.927 billion ($562 million) in the first quarter of 2008, an increase of 25.3% from the comparable period one year ago, but down 8.3% from the fourth quarter of 2007. Shenyang-based enterprise resource planning software developer Neusoft took first place in China's outsourcing market, with HiSoft and Insigma Technology ranking close behind. The top 10 software outsourcing companies held 35.6% of the market, down 0.1% from the fourth quarter of 2007.

Internet
The Nanhui district government in Shanghai Municipality has signed an agreement with Shanghai Mobile on the joint establishment of the district as a wireless city by the end of 2009. The project, which aims to offer informative wireless services to the local residents, includes the provision of wireless services for government affairs, which will ensure the provision of high efficiency services by the local government to the people, as well as a wireless business service, which will allow businesspeople to access various opportunities regardless of time or location. Finally, the project includes a wireless education service that will allow network users to share high quality educational resources.

The gay and lesbian media company Gaydar is expanding its empire into China with a social networking portal that will target a gay population of more than 50 million people. The new brand GaydarNation China will launch later this year for the gay and lesbian communities across China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. Gaydar's parent company, QSoft Consulting, is launching the site as a joint venture with the web and mobile media firm GoConnect. Go Connect has provided support for advertising on Gaydar's Australian website for six years, and will be using its existing relationships and market knowledge of China to set up GaydarNation China.

Hardware
Apple has opened a new retail store in Shanghai in partnership with Best Buy. The Chinese store is Apple's first store-within-a-store in the country. China Tech News has quoted Apple as saying that it will soon open its own stores in BejingÆs Sanlitun and Qianmen areas.

Internet
US-based CyberSource Corporation and China-based PayEase Technology are collaborating to remove technical and logistical barriers in ChinaÆs eCommerce market. With a rapidly growing population of online consumers, the Chinese market is a key target for many leading eCommerce brands around the world. However, issues pose significant challenges for merchants wanting to enter the market. For instance, only 6% of Chinese citizens hold credit cards. The common electronic payment vehicles are Chinese debit cards, offered by over 20 different key banks in the country. Merchants seeking broad access to the market are required to integrate with each of these disparate institutions, in addition to satisfying regulatory requirements regarding licenses and domicile.

A recent sales force reorganisation in response to competition is likely to hurt the growth prospects of mainland e-commerce company Alibaba.com at a time when international trade is declining. The company made the move in response to a recent initiative by rival Global Sources, which also provides online sourcing information and a transaction platform to bridge overseas buyers and mainland suppliers. Global Sources, historically, has been a high-end player with annual membership fees of as high as $80,000. Alibaba.com's premier "Gold Supplier" membership costs Rmb50,000 ($7,154) per year.

Semiconductors

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) posted a bigger-than-expected net loss in the first quarter as the contract chip sector headed into a downturn and memory prices plummeted. The quarter loss included a US$44 million provision taken against its dynamic random access memory (DRAM) inventory and could deepen further if the company books a loss on the DRAM business that it plans to exit. SMIC is focusing on higher-end logic and flash memory chips, used in gadgets such as digital cameras and portable music players. The commodity DRAM business carries a value of US$1.2 billion.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) will attempt to expand its mobile TV standard, CMMB (China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting), into foreign countries, as well as submit it for international mobile TV standard selection. SARFT is now cooperating with Middle Eastern telecom operator S2M in its effort to provide the standard abroad. S2M is a United Arab Emirates-based operator that provides mobile TV services to the Middle East and North Africa.

ò Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB) recently won a contract from China Cable Television Network Co. to upgrade the dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) system of the Beijing-to-Shanghai segment of its backbone optical transmission network. ASB received a 50 percent share of the project while Huawei Technologies received the remaining 50 percent.

Taiwan

Telecommunications
ò Chunghwa Telecom Co Ltd's audited consolidated results for the first quarter to March, compared with a year earlier. Sales reached NT$50.96 billion (US$1.7 billion) compared to NT$45.44 billion (US$1.5 billion) in the previous period. Pretax profit amounted to NT$14.41 billion (US$473 million) as against last yearÆs NT$15.37 billion (US$505 million). Net profit is valued at NT$10.72 billion (US$352 million) versus the NT$12.09 billion (US$397 million) earned in the previous period.

Hardware
ò Taiwan's Compal Electronics said its first-quarter net profit grew 23 percent from a year ago amid steady demand for laptop computers. Compal made a net profit of NT$3.209 billion (US$106 million) in the March quarter, compared with NT$2.601 billion (US$85 million) a year ago.

ò Taiwan contract notebook PC maker Wistron Corp will buy Lite-On Technology's monitor business for NT$9.2 billion (US$300 million) in cash, as it strengthens its supply chain in the fast-growing sector. The purchase would mostly involve inventory, equipment, intellectual property and personnel, but no land or manufacturing plants were included. Wistron planned to do more acquisitions to strengthen its supply chain, and that the company like many of its rivals wanted to move some of its manufacturing to Vietnam but was still in the planning phases.

Semiconductor
ò Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. said its financial performance in the first quarter to March met its January projections despite a bigger-than-expected appreciation of the Taiwan dollar against the US currency. It also met its targets despite having to expense employee bonuses in accordance with a newly enacted accounting requirement. Net profit for the three-month period fell 18.4 percent quarter-on-quarter but gained 49.4 percent year-on-year to NT$28.14 billion (US$924 million). While business was generally weaker in the first quarter due to seasonal factors, the stronger Taiwan dollar had a pronounced negative impact on both revenue and profit margins.

Hong Kong

Telecommunications
ò PCCW denied that it has plans to buy Pacific Century Premium Developments Ltd. (PCPD) shares on the open market. PCCW and unit Picville Investments Ltd are to buy PCPD shares on the open market following its failed attempt to privatize its property arm last week. PCPD minority shareholders voted down the proposed privatization offer by PCCW.

Mobile/ Wireless
ò Artificial Life, Inc. announced the launch of "SHOOTER-The Official Mobile Game" which is based on the successful Paramount Pictures motion picture. "SHOOTER-The Official Mobile Game" allows players to become Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger while taking on covert sniper missions along with heavy combat challenges that the player must successfully complete in a journey to uncover the truth. Seven progressively difficult missions synchronized with the "Shooter" film's story line allow the player to virtually travel to several locations.

Hardware
ò Lenovo announced the availability of the IdeaPad U110 consumer notebook PC. The product is the star of LenovoÆs IdeaPad entertainment and fashion-oriented notebook collection and winner of three Best-of-Show awards at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show. Select models of the notebook will be available in red and black on LenovoÆs website. LenovoÆs expansion of its retail partner lineup to bring the IdeaPad line of notebook PCs to more consumers across the U.S. New partners currently carrying select models of the IdeaPad notebooks and who will offer the IdeaPad U110 notebook beginning in mid-May, include B&H, CompUSA, J&R and RCS Experience.

ò Lenovo Group expects to give a lift to its server systems business through a new alliance with U.S.-based software firm VMware. The two companies last week joined forces to push the adoption of VMware's virtualisation software in mainland enterprises. Financial terms were not disclosed. Virtualisation software helps hide the physical characteristics of computing resources - such as servers, applications or storage devices from its user. The technology enables a user to host multiple operating systems on a single computer.

Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia/India

Telecommunications
ò Reliance Communications, through its subsidiary Reliance Globalcom, has acquired a 90 percent stake in WiMax operator eWave World as part of its plans to launch 4G services in 50 countries by investing US$500 million over the next two to three years. Reliance Communications will leverage on eWave's joint venture in China to enter the country's telecoms market. This is the third acquisition by the company as the company had acquired US-based Ethernet service provider Yipes Holdings for US$300 million (Rs 1,200 crore) in July 2007. The group also acquired a 10 per cent stake in French WiMax chip manufacturer Sequans Communications in February this year for an undisclosed sum. eWave World was formed by a group of industry veterans and it holds WiMax licenses and spectrum in several countries, including China. The company has put down over 36,000 km of optic fibre in China that will enable it to provide broadband services in that country.

ò India's Reliance Communications is planning to list its global arm Reliance Globalcomm on the London Stock Exchange. The listing will be subject to market conditions and if the company can get good value. Mr. Ambani was bullish about the proposed IPO of Reliance Infratel, the company subsidiary that owns the passive infrastructure of the telecom business, as the valuations are going northward. The company diluted five percent equity to global investors and will offer another 10 percent to the public. It has already filed a draft prospectus with the regulator and is awaiting approval.

ò Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said its wholly owned unit Smart Communications Inc. has acquired a local telecommunications company for 419.5 million pesos (US$10 million) as part of its plan to expand and upgrade broadband services. Smart has acquired the entire issued and outstanding capital stock of PH Communications Holdings Corp. and Francom Holdings Inc., which collectively own 100 percent of Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise Inc. (CURE). Smart acquired PH Communications and Francom from a group led by Filipino businessman Roberto Ongpin. Smart also intends to invest an additional 210 million pesos (US$5 million) by subscribing to new shares in CURE.

ò Most Southeast Asian telecom companies look set to post buoyant quarterly profits, thanks to a surge in mobile subscribers and as users send more text messages and surf the Web on their phones. But earnings at Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, the region's biggest telecoms firm, are expected to fall 12 percent in the March quarter due to currency impacts and price cuts by its Indonesian unit. Mobile penetration rates stand at about 35 percent in Indonesia, compared with 53 percent in the Philippines, 75 percent in Thailand, 84 percent in Malaysia and over 100 percent in Singapore.

ò Bayan Telecommunications Inc. (Bayan) has announced a 420 million pesos (US$10.2 million) expansion in Cebu to upgrade its facilities and increase serviceable areas in Central and Western Visayas, as well as boost capabilities of its clients at the Asiatown IT Park and the Cebu Business Park. Most of Bayan's clients in Cebu are companies in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and banks. Bayan is poised to expand its wireless landline coverage to Cebu next year.

ò The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition filed by Subic Telecommunications Company, Inc. (Subictel), a subsidiary of PLDT, seeking to assert its right to exclusively provide telecommunications services inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The decision did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it junked Subictel's petition on the ground of litis pendentia or pending suit and forum shopping in a decision issued on June 30, 2006.

ò Digital Telecommunications (Digitel), the telecom unit of the Gokongwei group in the Philippines, has said its mobile arm, Sun Cellular, plans to invest 11 billion pesos (US$260 million) per annum for expanding network infrastructure in selected areas. The company would expand its wireless coverage from the current number of 2,200 cell sites to about 4,000 by December 2008. It was gradually building up its customer base alongside the expansion of its network to be able to provide clients with better quality service.

ò The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (SingTel) will collaborate to promote maritime technology research and development in Singapore. This effort is part of Singapore's development as a maritime telecommunications hub and international maritime centre. The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on maritime telecom technology research and innovation that will leverage on SingTelÆs global satellite infrastructure and expertise and MPAs insights and on-going efforts to further develop SingaporeÆs port and maritime industry. One of the key projects would explore the seamless integration of SingTelÆs maritime satellite broadband solutions with the MPAs wireless-broadband-access for sea port facility.

ò In-sprit said that the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Advanced Info Service (AIS) to boost cooperation regarding next generation telecommunication service. Under the MoU, AIS will choose DCD (Dynamic Contents Delivery) by In-sprit as its core platform for 3G service which the company will launch this year. The two companies also agreed to develop next generation services in partnership along with pilot services.

ò Total Access Communication (DTAC) hopes to secure permission from CAT Telecom to upgrade its network to third-generation (3G) technology within the next couple of months. Any delays beyond next month or June would make it difficult for the company to catch up with its main rival. The mobile technology offers a wider range of more advanced services, including video calls, wireless broadband data and high-speed Internet access, all on 3G-capable mobile phones. DTAC expected to begin recording substantial revenue from 3G services in 2010, with its income from data doubling to 20 percent of revenue.

ò Advanced Info Service's (AIS) Q108 net profit is expected to grow 17 percent year-on-year to THB4.7 billion (US$148 million). Stripping out THB1.3 billion (US$41 million) net inter-connection profit for FY07 that was booked in Q407, net profit should grow 22 percent quarter-on-quarter. The strong results would be led by: 0.9 million net adds, improving prepaid ARPU, rising IDD and VAS income, and stable expenses. AIS's earnings should improve gradually for the rest of the year due to improving consumer confidence, led by the government's economic-stimulus programs and rising agricultural prices. And cellular operators should be less focused on price competition.

ò Pending third-generation (3G) services in Thailand may not bring in large-enough revenue for cellular operators if they must pay high concession fees to state agencies. Many telecom analysts share the view that operators have been forced to launch the service simply to create the image of being 3G providers. The operators will still have to share 3G revenue with TOT or CAT Telecom. Cellular operators pay about 25 percent of their revenue in concession fees to either TOT or CAT. The telecom operators are still waiting for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant them licenses to use the 2.1-gighertz spectrum to offer 3G services. The cost of the 2.1GHz licenses is likely to be lower than the existing concession costs.

ò DTAC and Advanced Info Service have agreed to settle a dispute concerning the latter's THB2.17 billion (US$68.4 million) in unpaid network roaming fees out of court. Both companies are major shareholders of Digital Phone (DPC). They believed talks were necessary after an arbitration tribunal ruled in favor of DTAC's claim against DPC for two unpaid installments of roaming fees. AIS, which took over DPC from Samart Corporation, ceased payment of two installments totaling THB2.17 billion (US$68.4 million) after the takeover. The two companies wanted to hold talks before AIS filed a petition with the Administrative Court over the arbitration award because they did not want the dispute to be prolonged.

Software
ò A number of talented IT professionals have been recruited by Microsoft Singapore through a global scheme called Mach û Microsoft Academy of College Hires, which provides an accelerated career development path for both graduates and undergraduates. Microsoft, which has its regional headquarters in Singapore, has been running this program in Asia since 2005. Participants have come from Japan, greater China, and other markets in the region. So far, 93 IT professionals have been hired across Asia through Mach. Microsoft is planning to double the number of Mach hires next year.

Hardware
ò Harris Corp., an international communications and information technology company, has been awarded a US$79.6 million contract to supply the Armed Forces of the Philippines with Falcon II high frequency (HF) and very-high frequency (VHF) tactical radios. Harris will provide the Philippines military with Falcon II RF-5800H HF manpack and Falcon II RF-5800V VHF handheld radios, along with support equipment, spare and repair parts, as well as training and logistics support. Deliveries will continue into next year.
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