A week in tech

All the latest tech news from around Asia.


Mobile / Wireless

- NEC Electronics Corp., NEC Corp. and Transmeta Corp. have jointly developed advanced large-scale integrated circuit technology that allows people to use their cell phones 10 times longer by sharply reducing power leakage. The new technology will also likely be applied to the development of energy-saving digital cameras and notebook computers. The companies aim to market phone handsets featuring the new technology as early as 2006. The breakthrough has been made possible through use of a large-scale integrated circuit with a width of just 65 nanometers. To date, the narrower the circuit width the more electricity the chip tends to lose. But the three partners managed to reduce power leakage by 99% through use of insulating film and Transmeta's circuit control technology. Current cell phones allow users to talk for no longer than two to three hours. The new device will extend the time 10-fold.

- NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's largest mobile-phone operator, unveiled four new handsets embedded with a smart chip that the company says will allow people to buy lunch, board an airplane or open their front doors with a single wave or tap of their cell phones. The phones, expected to go on sale in early July in Japan, come installed with Sony Corp.'s FeliCa smart cards. The paper-thin card contains a chip that can store money electronically, along with the kind of personal information that might be found in a person's wallet, such as credit-card numbers and company identification.


- Toshiba Corp. will sell the majority of its high-capacity power semiconductor business to Mitsubishi Electric Corp. The business transfer will include product development, design, manufacturing and marketing of high-capacity power module products. It would not include products for automotive use and high-voltage modules. The operations transfer will take place on October 1. Financial terms for the deal were not disclosed.


Mobile / Wireless

- A temporary ban on wireless operators from signing on new subscribers will prevent companies from spending heavily on marketing, enabling them to invest on network and facilities instead. The seven-member panel of the government-run agency under the Ministry of Information and Communication recommended earlier this month a temporarily ban of wireless operators such as SK Telecom Co., KTF Co. and LG Telecom Co. from signing on new subscribers because they provided illegal handset subsidies. As expected, the ministry accepted the panel's recommendation and SK Telecom, the country's largest wireless operator was suspended from signing on new subscribers for 40 days while smaller rivals KTF and LG Telecom each received a 30-day ban.


- KT Corp., the country's largest fixed-line and broadband carrier, has been granted a license for its "One-Phone" services, allowing customers to use both fixed-line and mobile phones with one device, according to the Information and Communication Ministry. The government had been reluctant to allow One-Phone services out of concern that KT's presence could eliminate fair competition once the company is allowed to connect its fixed-line services with mobile telephones and the Internet.

- KT Corp. commercialized a home networking system that provides subscribers with advanced interconnectivity between home-entertainment equipment. The company's Home N service features television/video-on-demand functions, which enable users to save and replay television broadcasts in their preferred order, and a "home viewer" function, a wireless home security system providing real-time images from inside the home via mobile phones and other portable devices. Home N also offers a short-message service, with which users can send text messages to mobile phones through the television, and a news update system that allows the user to search for or be provided with the latest information on the Internet while watching television.

- The government plans to introduce the "mobile virtual network operator" model to the local telecom industry, with the objective of stimulating market competition and generating new revenue streams through the expansion of data-driven mobile services. The Ministry of Information and Communication and the state-run Korea Information Strategy Development Institute began a joint research project to discuss the direction and phasing in of MVNO. The group expects to submit its final report to the ministry by the end of November. The ministry will make the final decision on whether and when to adopt the MVNO model.



- Google Inc. leads a group of investors and itself invests nearly $100 million in Baidu.com, China's largest search engine, the latest move by a US Internet heavyweight in the fast-growing Chinese market. Venture capital fund Draper Fisher Jurvetson is leading a consortium of seven Chinese and foreign firms buying minority stakes in Baidu. Set up in 1999 in California's Silicon Valley, Beijing-based Baidu says it is China's most popular search engine, averaging tens of millions text searches a day in Chinese alone.

- Rakuten, a Japanese portal site operator, announced that it will acquire 21.6% of Ctrip.com for $109 million. Shanghai-based Ctrip lets Chinese travelers book hotel and airline reservations online or through call centers. Ctrip went public last year on Nasdaq. Its stock price enjoyed a brief surge and then languished for several months below the IPO price, before the Rakuten news helped it climb back. Rakuten emerges as the single largest shareholder from this acquisition.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- China's massive mobile-phone market is becoming increasingly saturated and competitive, with many users demanding hefty incentives to sign up for new calling plans and quite a few using more than one mobile phone. Competition is so fierce that Chinese phone companies are establishing VIP clubs for their favorite, high-end users. Perks include gold-plated membership cards, special airport lounges and programs that dole out airline frequent-flier miles for consumers who spend a lot of time talking on their phones. But for China's big phone companies that puts pressure on margins.

Mobile / Wireless

- The mainland's No 2 mobile carrier, China Unicom, posted its fourth consecutive month of weak subscriber growth amid heated competition in the world's biggest cellular market. Unicom, the world's third-largest mobile carrier, said it added 1.7 million users for the month, pushing it above the 100-million mark. The firm had 100.1 million subscribers at the end of last month, up from 99.0 million in April. The company's subscriber base has grown at 2% or less in each of the past four months, compared with 2.3% or higher growth for most of the year before that.


- CSMC Technologies said it had no plans to distribute cash dividends after its listing on the main board. The chipmaker needed cash to fund expansion plans. In the past financial year to December, CSMC paid $13 million in cash dividends to shareholders, more than three times its $4.0 million net profit during the year. On top of the cash dividend, the company issued bonus shares worth $1.3 million to shareholders in March. The Wuxi-based low-end semiconductor manufacturer's shareholders include main-board-listed China Resources Logic and private equity funds IFC, Templeton, 3i Group, DBS, PVM and Fortune Holdings.

- Corning Inc., the US fiber-optic and glass maker, said the Chinese government has charged it with selling optical-fiber products in China at an unfairly low price that damaged Chinese producers, a practice known as dumping. Corning denied the charge, which followed a nearly yearlong investigation by China's Ministry of Commerce after two Chinese companies alleged that optical-fiber imports were priced below what market conditions justified. Corning said it hopes to settle the matter when Chinese officials visit the Corning, N.Y., company within the next several weeks. Eight other makers of the products, mainly from South Korea and Japan, were also found guilty of dumping by the ministry.



- Taiwanese display maker AU Optronics Corp. said its legal disputes with Japan's Sharp Corp. do not affect its shipments or operations. Earlier Thursday, Sharp said it has filed a lawsuit against the Japanese sales unit of Taiwan's TECO Electric & Machinery Co. alleging patent infringement on technology related to liquid crystal display panels. Sharp seeks a temporary injunction against the importation, production and sale of a liquid crystal display television model that TECO's Sankyo Co. unit sells in Japan.

Singapore / Malaysia / Philippines / Indonesia

Mobile / Wireless

- Singapore's Starhub Mobile announced that it had signed up more than one million subscribers as the city-state's cellular phone market nears saturation point. The island's third largest mobile phone company has captured 27% of the market in just four years of operation, making it the fastest-growing mobile service provider in Singapore. According to the latest government figures, more than 80% of Singaporeans had mobile phones. Starhub president and chief executive Terry Klontz said the telecom firm's initial rise was probably due to its billing features but he attributed its continued growth to being part of an integrated communications group.

Hong Kong

Information Technology

- NEC Corp. will supply around 30 biometric authentication systems to Hong Kong's Immigration Department for a trial from September in immigration control. The system, now being jointly developed by NEC and the department, is expected to enable the department to identify people by their facial features and check them against their photos in its database. Details will not be finalized until the end of this month, but it will likely be able to identify people even when their faces are partly hidden or they are facing sideways. The system is expected to be used initially to monitor people crossing over from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and detect those on a watch list. In the future, it will be used for identification of all incoming people.

Mobile / Wireless

- SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings has urged the government to adopt the same licensing procedure it used three years ago, when it auctions the CDMA spectrum license held by Hutchison Telecom. SmarTone is one of Hong Kong's four third-generation mobile license holders. In March, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) proposed recalling the underused code-division multiple access (CDMA) spectrum, which Hutchison uses for 2G subscribers, and re-auctioning it for use by a fifth 3G network based on CDMA2000 technology.


- PCCW Ltd. and Telstra Corp. agreed to buy out $1.2 billion in syndicated loans to their undersea-cable operator, Reach Ltd., for $310.9 million. PCCW and Telstra plan to pay for the deal from internal reserves. Under the deal, Telstra and PCCW also will provide $50 million to Reach for working capital. The $310.9 million loan is to be paid back by December 2010, the date when Reach would have had to start making principal payments on its original $1.2 billion loan.

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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