A week in tech; part 1

The latest tech news from Japan and Korea.

A week in Japan tech


- AT&T could owe NTT DoCoMo $3.6 billion if AT&T Wireless Services fails to offer 3G wireless service in four US cities by the end of next year as planned. The debt would occur only if AT&T Wireless wasn't able to pay the $3.6 billion itself, AT&T said in its annual report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

- Japan Telecom fiber-optic network control technology promises to create a new trend in large-volume telecom service. The new technology makes it possible to rent by the hour the right to use bandwidth for telecommunications. The service is expected to start as early as next year, acting as another factor putting downward pressure on telecom rates.

Mobile / Wireless

- NTT DoCoMo is selling a mobile phone that is worn around the wrist and snaps off to become a regular handset. Dubbed the "Wristomo," the watch opens up to become a phone, and users can talk while wearing it like Dick Tracy, the comic-book hero that made its debut in the 1930s. The Wristomo, made by Seiko Instruments, weighs four ounces including batteries.

- Posts and Telecommunications Ministry is to enable cell phone communications in over 90% of the areas where it is currently difficult to use mobile handsets because they are beyond the range of transmitting equipment. In some rural and depopulated districts, cell phones cannot be used because there is no infrastructure to relay the phone signals.

- Sales of NTT DoCoMo FOMA 3G phones through the end of March came to 329,000 units, surpassing the company's goal. By the end of February, sales of FOMA handsets totaled 191,500 units, making it doubtful whether the company would be able to reach its March-end goal of 320,000 units. But sales of the new P2102V, which debuted March 15, have been very strong.

- NTT DoCoMo and others to debut advanced camera-equipped handsets featuring charge coupled devices boasting more than 1 million pixels. The cameras in these phones will have a resolution four times better than that of current models and equal to low-end digital cameras. DoCoMo will in mid-May debut a phone with a 1.23-million-pixel camera under its 505 series.

- KDDI to open research institute dedicated to advanced mobile communications technology, including one related to 4G mobile phones capable of transmitting data at fiber-optic speeds. The telecom company plans to solicit rival NTT DoCoMo and a Chinese university to join the studies, with a view to making their technology the global standard.


- Sharp lifts forecasts for group operating profit for the year ended March 31, citing brisk sales of its core electronics products such as camera-equipped mobile phones and liquid-crystal-display televisions, as well as chip and LCD devices. The Japanese consumer-electronics maker expects a group operating profit of ¥99 billion ($825 million) for the year, up from its previous estimate of a ¥90 billion profit.

- Tokyo Electron expects to post a net loss for the second year in a row due to restructuring costs, losses on its securities holdings and a decline in the value of its inventory assets. Tokyo Electron, the world's second-biggest producer of chip-making equipment behind the Netherland's ASML Holdings NV, also said it will cut its global work force by 10%, or 1,000 staff, in the current fiscal year.

- H-P Japan to release a PC server later this month that costs less than most desktop PCs. The cheapest model in the tc2120 series of PC servers will be priced below 70,000 yen. This model will sport a Celeron microprocessor. The other two models in the series will have Pentium-4 microprocessors. HP Japan will target the machines at smaller businesses and enterprises.

Information Technology

- IBM Japan establishes new marketing department dedicated to Linux-based computer systems. Although corporate Japan remains as cautious as ever about IT investments, IBM Japan anticipates growing demand for Linux-based systems because they are relatively inexpensive to build. The fact that IMB Japan is now putting its weight behind Linux is expected to have a significant impact in Japan.

A week in Korea tech


- KTF may offer joint-project proposal to SK Telecom to share W-CDMA 3G networks. KTF will formally contact SK Telecom over the issue, its Chief Executive Nam Joong-soo told reporters yesterday. The proposal comes after both SK Telecom and KTF investors expressed scepticism over the envisioned infrastructure build-up plans.

Mobile / Wireless

- Ministry of Information and Communication considering cutting LM (land-to-mobile) charge by 5% within the first half of this year. The information ministry said that it is now working on the LM rate cut proposal after it received positive reviews from the economic policy coordination meeting last week.

- Intelligent Microsystem Center (IMC) develops a wristwatch-style PDA with company-developed technology. The company will present the PDA at a trade fair at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, for a two-day run. The PDA consists of three parts: a micro-batteries equipped main part, a stylus input device, and a head-mounted display (HMD).

- LG Electronics supplying rotational camera-mounted GPRS color phone sets to an Italian communications company called "Wind." The high-tech GPRS G8000 model camera phone features a high-performance 110,000-pixel camera and 65,000-color TFD-LCD screen that stores moving images. It is also fitted with a 40-poly sound-source chip, which can support various multimedia functions.


- South Korea has the highest Internet usage rate in East Asia, outpacing Japan, China and Taiwan, the state-run Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) said in a report. The ETRI report said that Korea has an Internet usage rate of 51.1 per cent, followed by Japan (45.5 per cent) and Taiwan (34.9 per cent).


- US claims South Korea unfairly subsidized memory-chip imports, singling out Hynix Semiconductor Inc. for what could be heavy tariffs. The agency estimated the net subsidy rate for Hynix's chip imports at 57.37%, a number that indicates the additional duties that the company will pay if the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission uphold the initial finding.

- Overseas shipments of memory DRAM semiconductors fell by as much as 30% in February, clouding the outlook for this year's exports, a trade report said yesterday. According to the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association, the nation's exports of DRAM memory chips in February plummeted by 30.3% from the previous month to $332 million.

A week in tech is brought to you by FinanceAsia, and IRG, Asia's boutique investment bank to the telecoms, media and tech sectors. More can be found at:

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