ò NTT DoCoMo announced its plans to begin offering customers flat-rate unlimited wireless internet access for computers in a bid to stabilise its market. According to media sources, NTT DoCoMo has also introduced more features that enable subscribers to use their phones to pay for products and receive news to increase user spending. NTT DoCoMo said it is looking to increase its returns from services such as wireless internet in order to counter declining revenues from traditional voice call services. The company predicts that the average monthly bill from voice calls will register a 7.7 percent decline to 4,330 yen ($35) in the fiscal year ending March 2008, while sales from data services will post a 6.9 percent growth to 2,150 yen ($17) a month. NTT DoCoMo said it is looking to sign up a total of 53.9 million users by 2008, which indicates a 2.4 percent increase. To carry out this goal, the company said it is introducing GSM technology to its top-end phones this year to allow more people to make calls overseas. It also revealed that it is considering entering into an alliance with Apple to develop iPhone for the Japanese market.
ò Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications announced that it is setting up a research and development unit for mobile phones in south India. Earlier this year, Sony Ericsson disclosed that it was outsourcing its manufacturing to the Chennai operations of Flextronics Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Industry, which uses the brand name Foxconn. The company said that by having R&D teams in India, it will be better able to tap into consumer behavior in local markets. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the country has added 6.5 million mobile telephony subscribers in May this year, taking the total number of subscribers to 178 million. According to Sony Ericsson, this mobile telephony boom has brought about heavy demand for mobile phones, with more than 62 million handsets sold in India in the last 12 months. The company is targeting production of 10 million phones from India by 2009. The new facility will become part of Sony EricssonÆs global network of R&D units, which is presently found in China, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K.
ò According to a company spokesperson, Matsushita Electric Industrial expects to double its production capacity for plasma display panels when a new plant begins production in western Japan in May 2009. The maker of Panasonic-branded electronics revealed its plans to manufacture 300,000 42-inch plasma display panels per month at a new plant to be built in the western Japanese city of Amagasaki. Together with a planned output increase at another Amagasaki plant that initiated operations this month, Matsushita declared that it will be able to turn out 1.3 million panels a month by May 2009, up from the current 640,000 panels. Construction of the new plant is expected to begin in November. The company currently has four plasma display panel plants in Japan and another one in Shanghai.
ò Market sources indicate that consumer electronics maker JVC will likely merge with audio equipment maker Kenwood Corp. under a joint holding company as early as 2008. Under the deal, Matsushita, which has 52.4 percent stake in JVC, is expected to sell its shares in the firm to the holding company. The move is also seen as MatsushitaÆs way of removing the loss-making JVC off its consolidated accounts. Earlier reports indicate that Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. has been trying to sell its JVC stake, valued at about 52.6 billion yen ($425 million). Under the preliminary integration plan, Kenwood will first buy 20 billion yen ($162.1 million) worth of new JVC shares through a third-party allocation, taking a stake of about 13 percent. The two companies will then set up a holding company as early as 2008, under which two firms will merge their operations. Spokesmen from Matsushita, JVC and Kenwood said that nothing has been decided. In a related earlier development, Matsushita said it has selected US private equity firm Texas Pacific Group as its preferred bidder for its JVC stake. These negotiations failed after banks have refused funding the acquisition because they were not sure TPG could turn around a company that has gone through four straight annual losses.
ò Industry sources indicated that Google is looking to launch YouTube in South Korea later this year in a bit to tap the fast-growing user-created content market here. Under the deal, South Korean web surfers will be able to easily access YouTube by way of a user interface translated into Korean while having a platform through which they can share uploaded content with other global users. Earlier, Google disclosed that it would provide the video-sharing service to nine more countries including Japan, France and Germany but South Korea was excluded. Google could not be reached for comment regarding the deal. Some 70 percent of Korean homes have high-speed Internet access but many prefer local search engines.
ò LG Dacom announced the launching of a residential internet calling service it dubbed myLG 070, which allows subscribers free phone calls. Internet calling allows users to make telephone calls by connecting to the internet instead of using fixed lines. Many communication companies in the country are rushing to launch Internet calling services, with LG Dacom as the first fixed-line provider to do so. The newly launched internet calling service costs 50 won ($0.50) per minute for international calls to 20 countries including the US, China, Japan, Britain, Hong Kong and Canada, much cheaper than KT and Hanaro Telecom.
ò LG Electronics announced the release of its 3G mobile phone installed with mobile services by Google in European markets that include Italy, France and Germany. To manufacture the phone, LG entered into an agreement with Google, with the LG-JU580 offering one-click access to Google services including Google Search, Google Mail and Google Maps.
ò SK Telecom announced the lowering of its fees for global roaming in some overseas countries. The company said it has also expanded its roaming services, now offering rental phones to customers who have lost their handsets in foreign countries. Global roaming allows cell phone subscribers to use their phones overseas. According to SK Telecom's President, he has discussed with 10 major Asian wireless companies in Singapore on an agreement to work on improving roaming services. It must be noted that the regional wireless providers have formed the Bridge Mobile Alliance (BMA), under which SKT subscribers can rent handsets from BMA Concierge Counters if they lose their handsets while traveling abroad.
ò Qualcomm Incorporated, a leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies and mobile data solutions, and KTF, a leading wireless service operator in South Korea, announced that the first commercially available Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) on BREW handsets will be made available in late June to KTF subscribers from LG Electronics. The two companies described the launch of KTF's first WIPI on BREW handsets as marking an important step for the operator as it deploys its BREW-powered Downloadpack wireless data service. The service is offered over its new WCDMA (HSDPA) network and works to provide subscribers with some of the most comprehensive and compelling wireless data services available in the Korean market, including downloadable applications, games and ringtones. Qualcomm Incorporated is a leader in developing and delivering innovative digital wireless communications products and services based on CDMA and other advanced technologies.
ò LG Electronics Inc. disclosed that it will file a counter-lawsuit against Hitachi, its US unit and a flat-panel joint venture, with the suit stating that the Japanese company has infringed on patents related to LG's plasma displays. LG said its complaint specifically states that Hitachi, its U.S. unit, and Fujitsu Hitachi Plasma Display Ltd., a joint venture with Japan's Fujitsu Ltd., have infringed on seven LG patents. Earlier, Hitachi of Japan filed a similar suit against LG Electronics and its US unit in the same court in Texas where LG has filed the suit. No comments were available from Hitachi officials. In the complaint, Hitachi is asking for monetary compensation and a permanent injunction prohibiting the sale of LG's plasma display products in the US. Since 2005, industry observers note that LG and Hitachi have been trying to reach a settlement regarding patents related to plasma display technologies.
ò Hynix Semiconductor predicts that the world chip market will see stronger sales next year. With the forecast, the companyÆs president also stated that the company aims to increase its sales by more than 20 percent this year. The world's number two maker of DRAM chips also disclosed that it has just issued $500 million in global bonds to pay back maturing debts.
ò 9you.com, an online gaming portal, announced that it secured an approval for listing on the Osaka Stock Exchange Market. Under the plan, 9you.com said it is aiming to issue 97,000 shares of stock in Japan, including 46,000 for IPO, and 51,000 for the second offering. Earlier, 9you.com said it was targeting to get a NASDAQ listing until it shifted its focus to Japan. Observers note that many Chinese companies appear to favor UK or Japan for listing as the said destinations provide lower barriers.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CDC Games, a business unit of CDC Corporation, announced the launching of Special Force, the first free-to-play, pay-for-merchandise FPS (first person shooter) game in China for general commercial availability. The company, a pioneer of the free-to-play, pay for merchandise model for online games in the country, said the launch follows a highly successful open beta in which 1.6 million users registered to play the game during this testing phase. Special Force, which was developed by Dragonfly, was recently ranked as the top online game in South Korean internet cafes for more than 50 consecutive weeks and provides CDC Games with first-mover advantage in the FPS category of online gaming in China. CDC Games is one of the market leaders of online and mobile games in China with 50 million registered users. In March 2007, the company announced the formation of CDC Games Studio, funded by up to US$100 million, to establish strategic relationships with selected games development partners to accelerate the development of new, original online games for China and other targeted global geographies. The CDC family of companies includes CDC Software focused on enterprise software applications and services, CDC Mobile focused on mobile applications, CDC Games focused on online games, and China.com focused on portals for the greater China markets.
ò Sony Ericsson announced the setting up of a new factory in Beijing, a move that the company described as part of the plan to make the Chinese capital its global manufacturing base. The company said the factory will be used for manufacturing mobile phones and printed circuit boards. For Sony Ericsson, China remains the only country where it maintains a whole range of services that cover production, outsourcing, development to design, sales and market promotion.
ò Euronet, a global electronic payments provider, disclosed the widening of its ATM outsourcing agreement with China Postal Savings Bank. Under the agreement, Euronet will set up an additional 721 ATMs for China Postal Bank in Beijing, Shanghai and the Guangdong province. Euronet China expects to complete the deployment of the new ATMs for China Postal within the next 12 to 18 months. China Postal Savings Bank is the fifth largest financial institution in China and maintains a network of 7,780 ATMs, which includes the 90 ATMs deployed by Euronet over the last year.
ò Ericsson announced entering into an agreement with China Unicom to assist the telecom upgrade of its GSM network in 6 Chinese provinces. Earlier, Ericsson signed a GSM deal valued at US$1 billion with China Mobile for upgrading the GSM network of the telecom's operations in 19 Chinese provinces. Under the agreement, Ericsson will provide solutions for the network deployment mobile exchange in Jilin, Henan, Jiangsu, Yunnan, Hainan and Liaoning Provinces, a move that is expected to bring in over 4 million in user capacity to China Unicom. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
ò Media sources said Datang Telecom is a recipient of a loan worth 30 billion yuan ($4 billion) following its signing of a cooperation agreement with China Development Bank. Industry analysts see the loan grant as helping solve the fund shortage that Datang is currently experiencing. Under the deal, the two sides will combine each of their advantages, with China Development Bank providing a full range of financial services to Datang Telecom to support the company's scaled TD-SCDMA construction over the long term.
ò Industry sources indicated that Microsoft has acquired a ôsmall stakeö in the countryÆs Sichuan Changhong Electric Company, a move that analysts see as the software giantÆs move to make its presence bigger in China. Sources said the companies have signed a letter of intent for Microsoft to acquire 15 million Changhong shares in a deal valued at 94 million yuan ($12.3 million). Changhong's stock is currently traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Microsoft's purchase corresponds to less than one percent of the total outstanding shares for Changhong. Under the deal, the two companies will initiate a project dubbed Media Galaxy, under which they will focus on tapping the power of the Internet to boost consumer electronics.
ò China Telecom Corp announced that it has agreed to buy telecom-related assets from its State-owned parent in a bid to boost its stock appeal. Under the deal, the company said it would pay 1.4 billion yuan ($183.6 million) in cash for a 100 percent stake in China Telecom (Hong Kong) International Ltd., China Telecom System Integration Co Ltd., and China Telecom (USA) Corp., all of which are fully owned subsidiaries of China Telecommunications Corp. China Telecom said it has been lobbying the government to secure a license to offer mobile phone services to counter the slowdown of its fixed-line business.
ò According to media sources, the WiMAX Forum has chosen Taiwan-based Advance Data Technology (ADT) as the first Asian certification test lab to offer both fixed and mobile WiMAX certification services starting October this year. ADT will be authorised to offer WiMAX member companies certification testing to certify conformity and interoperability of WiMAX products. The test will be considered at the same levels as those conducted by WiMAX Forums' lead certification testing partner, AT4 Wireless, in Spain. ADT provides comprehensive testing and certification services covering a wide range of industrial standards. The company said it also delivers technical consultation in product design and test system integration. Market sources said the WiMAX Forum is in talks with Taiwan-based testing companies as it aims to set up two certification test labs in Taiwan.
ò Taiwan Mobile (TWM) announced its formation of a strategic alliance with Yahoo! Kimo (Yahoo! Taiwan) to become the latter's exclusive partner in launching the Chinese-language Yahoo! oneSearch mobile online service in the Taiwan market in the third quarter of 2007. The company said Yahoo! oneSearch will be offered on Catch, TWM's platform of mobile value-added services. With a user interface and functions specifically designed for handset users, the Chinese-language Yahoo! oneSearch will display, in addition to the result of a search, various information related to the subject keywords. According to TWM, Taiwan will be the eighth Asian country to introduce Yahoo! oneSearch, next to Indonesia, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
ò After some changes, BenQ said its official English name will be Qisda, which stands for "quality innovation speed driving and achievements." The company said the new names in Chinese and English will be effective by the month of September in 2007. The announcement also said that Qisda is expected to turn profitable in 2008. The company will mainly focus on LCD monitors, projectors, MFPs (multi-function peripherals) and handset ODM/OEM businesses, with the LCD monitor segment seen as initially the sales driver and account for 30-40 percent of the company's revenues. BenQ will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Qisda and will keep BenQ as its brand name. The own-brand product lines will remain the same as now, covering wireless communication products, mobile phones, LCD monitors, LCD TVs, Joybook notebooks, optical storage products, MFPs and scanners. BenQ revealed that it also plans to reduce capital by 40 percent to NT$15.4 billion (US$465.2 million) in the future.
ò Google announced the launch of the Taiwan version of iGoogle, a service enabling users to make personalised home pages. The launch also marks the release of the first country-specific version of the iGoogle platform. The Taiwan version of iGoogle was developed by the Taiwan Engineering Research Center based on thorough consideration of local users' preferences and needs in terms of news sources, popular search keywords, frequently used web portals, movies and photos the research center indicated.
ò Wafer Works revealed its plans to expand its number of semiconductor wafer furnaces in Taiwan even as it boosts the solar wafer production capacity in China. Wafer Works currently houses a 6-inch silicon wafer capacity of 300,000 per month in Taiwan. The company is seeking a new site for additional furnaces but a concrete location has not yet been decided. Water Works said an 8-inch wafer polishing production line with a monthly capacity of 100,000 wafers is also planned. After it has completed its consolidation with China-based Solargiga Energy Holdings, a solar wafer maker, Wafer Works will have its annual solar wafer capacity expand from 20MWp to 100MWp in late 2007 and to 200MWp in 2008.
ò According to the company CEO, High Tech Computer (HTC) plans to optimise its capital by carrying out a series of strategic investment projects in order to sustain long-term growth. The official also disclosed that HTC currently holds as much as NT$34.4 billion ($1 billion) in cash that will enable HTC to implement additional investment projects. For the company, the new investment projects should complement HTC's long-term development or create added value for the company. The company forecasts its revenues for June as posting a 5 percent growth from the NT$10 billion ($305.3 million) it recorded in the same month of 2006.
ò Hutchison Whampoa announced its acquisition of 12 million shares in Hutchison Telecom International Group (HTIL), provider of mobile and fixed telecommunications services, in the open market through the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The shares were acquired through investment holding subsidiary HTIL. HTIL has fixed and mobile operations in Hong Kong, and mobile operations in Macau, Israel, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Indonesia and Vietnam. Hutchison Whampoa and its subsidiaries control just over 50 percent of HTIL shares in issue form as of June, up from 49.7 percent previously. Following the acquisition, HTIL will now be accounted for as a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa. Market sources place the value of the deal at HK$124 million ($15.8 million).
ò Qualcomm announced its alliance with PCCW to conduct a technology trial of its MediaFlO Mobile TV Technology. The technical trial, expected to run until November, is aimed at testing handsets and to allow PCCW to assess the business model of a mobile TV service utilising QualcommÆs technology. In a separate development, Qualcomm and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) completed a second technical trial of the mobile TV technology in the UK. The technology is one of those widely considered means to be used for the deployment of mobile TV.
ò Media sources said a local technology firm in Singapore, Nex-G Systems, has joined the ranks of a handful of companies worldwide capable of developing a new wireless technology called mobile WiMax. The company, a homegrown wireless hardware maker, entered into an agreement with IBM to develop base stations for mobile WiMax. The technology will enable cellphone and laptop users to go online at speeds of up to 70Mbps, or about 20 times faster than what is offered on mobile internet services now. Currently, mobile WiMax services are already available in South Korea; they are expected to roll out in countries like Singapore within the next five years. Under the agreement, Nex-G will design and manufacture the high-end base stations that telecom operators use to connect users wirelessly. It will use IBMÆs PowerPC chips in its base stations, with Nu Horizons Electronics Asia doing the marketing. The company said it has also plans to license the technology to other manufacturers, when its first base stations are completed within a year's time. According to research firm In-Stat, the market for WiMax is valued at about $8 billion in 2012 in the areas covered by the Asia-Pacific region.
ò A project called the Indonesian Information Community Kiosk or Warmasif will soon introduce to Indonesian communities local post offices featuring at least four desktop computer stations, a scanner, a printer and a digital camera. The project jointly developed by the countryÆs Communication and Information Ministry and state-owned PT Pos Indonesia. According to the director general for Information and Telecommunication Technology, Warmasif will serve as ôan outlet for people in a particular area to communicate, access global information, market their products, make online deals and access a virtual community library. " The kiosks will also make available comprehensive electronic health and medical resources will also be made available, which will include access to health insurance companies, hospitals, and clinics, the Indonesian Red Cross, medical experts and specialists. The government source said open-source operating system Linux will be installed on all kiosk computers in an effort to provide the system with better protection against viruses. The project also in line with the policies of the Indonesia Go Open Source (IGOS) program, which is a national scheme in which state institutions use license-free, open-source software rather than proprietary products developed by major global software companies.