A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

Japan

Internet

- Matsushita Electric Works Information Systems Co. (MEW-IS) has entered the commercial market for IP (Internet Protocol) phone services. The company is offering a comprehensive package to businesses that includes the construction of an IP phone system based on existing analog phones, maintenance services and the operation of a communications service based on a dedicated phone network. MEW-IS will build the IP phone system using existing analog phones and branch exchanges, together with a gateway to convert audio data into an IP-compatible format and server for the IP addresses. For the communication service, the company will charge an initial fee of 1,050 yen ($10) per line.

Software

- NTT Do Como announced that it has developed a software platform for its FOMA-third generation mobile phones. The new platform comes in two varieties - one compatible with Linux open-source operating system and one for Symbian's operating system. The Linux version was developed with NEC and Panasonic Mobile Communications, while the other was developed jointly with Fujitsu. NTT DoCoMo will license the software platform to handset manufacturers to make development work more efficiently and enable them to concentrate resources on development of their own application software. It could also make it possible to develop applications in advance of the completion of hardware development. The software platform will be utilized on some models in the FOMA 901i series NTT DoCoMo will release later this month.

- Netmarks Inc. has developed a digital guard-post system to verify the safety of notebook computers that are brought into a company. The system, which is meant to defend against viruses and similar problems, can quickly detect computers that do not comply with a firm's security policy. Netmarks, which created the system with internet security services firm Little eArth expects 100 companies a year to adopt it starting this month. Using the system, Internet browser software is automatically installed in a computer, which is then connected to a server operated by Little eArth. The inspection takes a few minutes, after which the computer is placed in one of three categories to indicate the degree of danger it poses based on such factors as virus software updates. Netmarks will offer the system as an application service provider (ASP), which means users will not have to buy any special equipment. Monthly fees will start at 150,000 yen ($1,453).

Mobile/Wireless

- Japan's domestic shipments of mobile phone handsets fell 10 percent on year in September to 3.7 million units, extending the string of declines to nine months, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association said. The weak data highlight a slump from lofty levels last year, when Sharp, Hitachi and other manufacturers were racing to meet strong consumer demand for phones equipped with digital cameras. The association said it expects the industry to pick up when demand to replace older handsets with new models able to handle third-generation services gathers momentum. Still, more people signed up for mobile phone services in September, with the net increase in the number of subscriber contracts totaling 265,900. Total contracts for all mobile phone services stood at 88.6 million, up 0.3 percent from August. That was equivalent to 69.8 percent of Japan's population.

- Mitsubishi Electric has developed a safer system to input an eight-digit password on a cell phone using only three buttons. Since the user actually does not type in the number of characters making up the password, other people who see the phone display cannot tell what the password is, according to the company. Mitsubishi aims to promote the system for use in electronic commerce and information services.

Semiconductors

- A joint venture between Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Fujitsu had plans for a new production line of microchips in Japan. Reports said the investment would reach $950 million. California-based joint venture Spansion was planning to build a line at its Japanese manufacturing base in a site 200 kilometers north of Tokyo. Reports said that Spansion would build a cutting-edge production line for flash memory chips used mainly in mobile phones. Spansion was established in 2003 upon the merger of flash memory operations of Fujitsu of Japan and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of the United States. AMD controls 60 percent of the California company, with Fujitsu holding the rest.

- Japan's only DRAM-maker Elpida Memory made a strong debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange as its shares closed up 250 yen or 7.1 percent from its initial public offer price. Elpida closed at 3,750 yen after a high of 3,830 yen. Elpida is the world's fifth-largest maker - and Japan's only remaining manufacturer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips. The chips are widely used in personal computers, flat-screen TVs, mobile phones and numerous other types of electronic equipment. Elpida raised 111.5 billion through its share sale, making it the fourth-largest IPO in Japan this year. Elpida plans to use the money raised through its IPO to help pay for the construction of a $4.5 billion plant in Hiroshima. The plant is meant to ensure Elpida Memory's competitiveness against rivals such as Samsung and Micron Technology.

Information Technology

- Fujitsu and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications have jointly developed a next-generation optical communications technology for broadband networks. The technology is a variation of packet switching that uses packets holding 1,000 to 10,000 times as much data as regular packets. The result is that large volumes of data can be sent more accurately and reassembled from the packets easily. Fujitsu aims to have a practical version of the technology ready in 2008. In addition, the company and its Beijing subsidiary together with the university in Beijing have succeeded in getting development of the technology adopted as a national R&D project in China, reportedly a first time for a foreign company to become involved in a national project in the field of optical communications in China.

Korea

Internet

- The government allocated the bandwidth for portable internet services, saying it would be divided among the three companies that eventually secure licenses for the new business. Portable internet service providers will pay between 117 billion won ($110 million) to 125.8 billion won ($118.2 million) in license fees in accordance with the business plans they submit to the government. The portable internet, dubbed WiBro (wireless broadband), is designed to be more efficient at providing internet connectivity and mobile data than either broadband or current mobile services. WiBro is aimed at providing a 1Mbps internet connection to receiver devices moving at speeds up to 70 kilometers per hour. The government hopes to see commercialization by 2006, and more than 10 million customers spending a total of 4 trillion won ($3.7 billion) in services by 2011. Last month, Dacom Corp., the long-distance telephony and broadband internet affiliate of LG Group withdrew from the WiBro licensing competition, saying it will concentrate on efforts to acquire troubled internet service provider Thrunet instead. Dacom's pullout virtually handed licenses for three available spots to KT, SK Telecom and Hanarotelecom.

- South Korea's E-Commerce and Direct Marketing Association reported a significant increase in sales for the third quarter compared to a year ago. The top-15 members reported an increase in their total sales of 26.1 percent from a year ago to 1 trillion won ($957 million) in July-September period. Sales made by internet-only shopping malls jumped along with sales for Auction and Interpark, which rose more than 70 percent, with returns at Lotte.com and Shinsegae.com climbing almost 30 percent each.

Mobile/Wireless

- LG Electronics said it will anchor closer ties with Intel to share their portable internet technologies. LG Electronics also discussed developing mobile handsets and a system based on intel's chip solution. Aside from portable Internet, the two companies agreed on increased collaboration in a wider range of fields, with the exclusion of home appliances. In a separate report, LG Electronics said it developed the world's first mobile phone capable of receiving ground-based digital multimedia broadcasts (DMB), with test services to begin next year. DMB is a system designed to relay broadcast signals to portable receivers such as mobile phones.

- KT, the country's largest fixed-line telephony operator, said it minted a partnership with a Vietnamese company, Vinaphone, to start mobile-phone services there next year. Vinaphone, a unit of the telecom monopoly Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Corp., is the largest local mobile-phone operator. KT officials also confirmed the report of Vietnam, saying that the company eventually plans to establish a joint venture with Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications after the Vietnamese government opens its wireless market in the later half of next year. Vietnam is an emerging but largely underdeveloped market, with just 7.1 million fixed-line and wireless telephone subscribers among a population of 81 million. Over the past five years, however, Vietnam has sustained average fixed-line network growth of 26.8 percent, slightly ahead of China, to rank as the second-fastest developing market in the world according to the International Telecommunications Union. Korea's No. 1 mobile-phone carrier SK Telecom, has also been tapping Vietnam's telecom market.

Semiconductors

- Hynix Semiconductor said it had signed a final contract with European giant STM Electronics to build a chip plant in China. Hynix said the $2 billion plant to be built in Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, would help the company defuse a trade row over its chip imports and also boost earnings. Hynix said the mainland plant would begin mass production in 2006. Hynix owns 67 percent of the joint venture while ST controls 33 percent. Hynix and ST agreed to invest $500 million each in the venture with the regional mainland government and financial institutions to put up $1 billion. The plant would initially build an eight-inch wafer production line and later launch a more advanced 12-inch wafer production. Hynix has been hit with punitive tariffs in the European Union and United States over allegations its chip making has been supported by government subsidies.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Korean-made online games are a sensation overseas, with this year's exports expected to reach as high as $250 million for the first time, industry sources said. The Korean Game Development & Promotion Institute, a government subsidiary promoting Korea's game industry, cited a series of multi-million dollar deals behind the significant growth in this year's exports, which is expected to see an increase of between 30 and 70 percent from last year when the figure stood at $150 million. Sources said the Korean game software makers are increasingly targeting the world market from development stage and are willing to spend billions of won, compared to just hundreds of millions of won a few years, to produce dynamic titles. Online games have been mainly responsible for the country's booming game industry over the past few years. Online games accounted for 83.6 percent of overall game exports last year, up more than 30 percent from 55.2 percent in 2002. This year, Korea's online game makers have inked record contracts with overseas buyers, exclusive of royalties. The latest is CCR Inc., which earned a combined $10.5 million from three foreign service providers for the rights to RFOnline. In one of the deals, CCR signed with China's Wanma Internet Development Corp. to receive $6 million and 30 percent royalties on future sales.

China

Internet

- New statistics from CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) showed that a large number of Chinese netizens were now trying e-commerce services. Approximately 60.6 percent of internet users surveyed had visited an e-commerce website over the past six months ended September 30. However, of those that had visited e-commerce sites, just 29.6 percent of individuals had made a purchase during the past half-year. Interest in online shopping had increased, according to the report, due to a larger variety of products now available online, as well as lower prices and greater convenience. The improvement in China's electronic payment systems, moreover, has also had a major impact on the e-commerce industry. The survey also showed that the C2C (Customer-to-Customer) market had experienced the most rapid growth among the sectors of China's e-commerce industry for the past six months. However, the B2C (Business-to-Customer) market still dominates the online shopping industry.

- Tom Online, China's leading wireless internet company, announced it will acquire the entire issued share capital of Whole Win Investments Ltd, a fast-growing 2.5G services provider, to continue to expand its share in the country's dynamic wireless Internet market. Tom Online has signed an agreement to pay HK$25.3 million ($3.2 million) for the purchase of Whole Win. The total consideration could be adjusted up to HK$64.7 million ($8.4 million) depending on the firm's profitability in 2004. Whole Win is a key provider of WAP services in China. Based on Whole Win's unaudited figures, the company generated revenues of HK$5.8 million ($750,000) from its WAP business in the eight months ended August 31, 2004. The purchase of Whole Win, which has been successful in growing its wireless Internet services, will further consolidate Tom Online's position as the leading provider of 2.5G services, Tom Online official said.

- Local media reports that after eBay.com's successful acquisition of Chinese auction website Eachnet.com, the latter saw a drop in the number of users accessing its site. Specifically, college users are using the Eachnet site less, and instead, they are opting for competitor's auction sites like Taobao.com and 1pai.com. The primary cause of this shift in college student traffic appears to be eBay's decision to move their Internet servers from China to the U.S. According to Chinese government policies, college students are often charged extra fees for accessing offshore Internet websites. A secondary reason is that Eachnet has stopped providing many free services to users.

- Nearly 10 percent of Chinese Internet users switched e-mail accounts from June to August this year because the service providers offered bigger storage, according to a survey made by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Leading internet service providers in China Yahoo, Sina and Netease provided free e-mail service of a storage capacity over 1GB since Google launched free mail of 1GB in April this year. The report also revealed that 83 percent of the e-mail users possessed one to three addresses, and 96.5 percent of Chinese netizens had free e-mail accounts, often featured by large storage capacities. E-mail users aged between 18-24 accounted for 43.6 percent of the total, and the second-largest group was composed of those between 25 to 30, taking up 26.1 percent. Some 45.8 percent of the e-mail users in China received college education and above. The largest group of users, in terms of occupation, is students, taking up 35.2 percent of the total, which were followed by professional technicians and teachers, respectively 11.6 percent and 11.4 percent respectively.

- The president and chief operating officer of Chinese internet portal Sohu.com, Victor Koo, will step down from his position next year, the company said. Koo's resignation will become effective March 31, 2005, the statement said. Following that date, Koo will remain an advisor to Sohu for six months. Instead of appointing a replacement from Koo, the company will divide his current responsibilities among the heads of each Sohu's business lines, such as advertising and online gaming, a spokesperson said.

- Tom Online hopes to introduce new telecommunication services on the mainland next year that will allow customers to use voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology to make calls to conventional telephones. The plans were announced at the joint launch of an instant-messaging service with Luxembourg-based Skype. The computer-to-computer service, Tom-Skype, offers peer-to-peer text and voice communications. Skype had launched similar co-branded services in Japan with Internet portal Livedoor, and in Taiwan with PC Home Online earlier this year. Both firms will concentrate on building a critical mass of subscribers for Tom-Skype before launching the computer-to-telephone VoIP service, SkypeOut. Tom Online said it was in talks with mainland fixed-line and mobile-telecommunications operators on possible co-operation with its SkypeOut service, which will offer international computer-to-telephone calls at very low charges.

- Tencent Holdings reported its 3Q net profits fell 4.7 percent from the second quarter to 108 million yuan ($13 million) due to higher research costs and office expansion expenses. Third-quarter net profit margins were squeezed to 36 percent from 42 percent in the second quarter as the group increased research and development spending and expanded into online games. The group also spent more on acquiring new features to bolster its QQ instant messaging services. The launch of new SMS services for Xiaolingtong, limited local mobile services offered on fixed-line networks boosted SMS revenue by 5 percent in the quarter. China Mobile's suspension of Tencent's interactive voice response (IVR) services had little impact, as it was not a major revenue earner.

- eLong reported its third-quarter results with the company booking a net loss of $88,000 for the quarter. Third quarter revenues from air ticketing and hotel reservations increased 51 percent and 58 percent from the second quarter respectively. Adjusted net income for the quarter, which excludes amortization of stock compensation and intangibles, was $167,000. Revenue from hotel reservations for the quarter totaled $3.6 million, an increase of 58 percent year-over-year and 12 percent sequentially.

Mobile/Wireless

- Hopes that the central government would soon unveil a schedule for implementing a 3G licensing policy have been dashed as the mainland gives its homegrown technology standard more time to mature. Telecommunications equipment suppliers such as Finland's Nokia have been eagerly waiting for an official announcement on 3G. But unimpressive field trials for the third-generation technology TD-SCDMA seems to convince the government to delay the issuance of licenses.

- ZTE's third-generation mobile business could be a key growth asset - or a substantial risk - to the mainland equipment maker's earnings growth, according to its listing sponsor. A 3G rollout in China will be the biggest driver of growth, and ZTE's growth outlook would be significantly reduced if 3G does not happen, Goldman Sachs, the sole sponsor for ZTE's $350 million H-share offering, said in a research report. If ZTE did not deliver the right 3G technologies and was unable to secure its mainland 3G business in two to three years, the launch could hit earnings potential, it said. Goldman expects the mainland to delay issuance of 3G licenses until late next year. The government's plan to boost the domestic-making industry meant domestic vendors such as ZTE and Huawei Technologies were most likely to benefit from the growth of the mainland's 3G business. Assuming preferential treatment from the state, Goldman expected mainland equipment makers could receive as much as 30 percent of the country's estimated 30 billion to 40 billion yuan ($4-5 billion) in annual 3G capital expenditure.

- China Mobile is in the process of placing all wireless value-added service disseminated over its mobile network onto the carrier's self-developed Mobile Information Services Center (MISC) platform. The application of the MISC platform, however, has cut into the bottom lines of wireless service providers (SPs), according to Tom Online and Yahoo! China's Wireless Services. China Mobile began developing of its MISC platform in 2000, when China Mobile (HK) established Aspire-Technology specifically to design, develop and create the platform. Aspire-Technology is a majority owned by China Mobile (HK), but minority shareholders also include Vodafone and Hewlett Packard. Vodafone holds a 10 percent stake in the company, while HP holds a 7 percent stake through its wholly owned subsidiary Hanover Asia Pacific Investments Limited.

- Chinese wireless media firm Linktone said quarterly profits fell by a fifth from the previous quarter after Beijing cracked down on messaging services, but an upbeat outlook catapulted its shares. Linktone posted a third-quarter profit of $2.8 million, down from $3.5 million, in the second quarter. That was more than double the year-earlier profit of $1.1 million. Linktone said it expected a 3.6 percent rise in the fourth-quarter net income to about $2.9 million.

- Wireless service provider Kongzhong reported earnings for the 3rd quarter, with the company seeing revenues rise three percent quarter on quarter to $12.4 million. The profit also rose slightly - one percent, to $5.3 million. This is compared to rival Linktone, which saw profits fall 20 percent.

Hardware

- Hasee Group, a Chinese maker of PCs and laptops, will invest at least 2 billion yuan ($242 million) in building a new 3.5-generation LCD line in the city of Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province. The new line is expected to reduce Hasee's LCD procurement cost by half, thus enabling the company to produce significantly cheaper laptops for the Chinese market. The LCD line is expected begin operations in two years, with an initial output capacity of 400,000 14" LCD panels per month. Hasee has already made a name for itself in China as a producer of low cost laptops and PCs.

Information Technology

- For the first ten months of the year, China's trade volume for hi-tech products valued at $259.3 billion, a year-on-year increase of 43.9 percent. Hi-tech exports for the whole year are expected to reach $160 billion, $50 billion higher than last year. Hi-tech exports accounted for 27.4 percent of the total exports from China. The Ministry of Commerce attributed the fast growth of hi-tech exports to the policy of boosting the foreign trade with science and technology. Trade fairs for software and hi-tech were successfully held in different parts of the country this year. The demand of the world market for Chinese hi-tech products is also increasing. And tax rebate rates for 97 kinds of hi-tech exports financially give more energy to exporters.

- EA and Chinese online operator Optisp set up a joint venture in Hong Kong. EA invested over 500 million yuan ($64 million) in the joint venture and will be the majority shareholder. Guangzhou-based Optisp is the operator of one of the top online games in China, Legend of Mir3, and has won the publishing rights to EA's FIFA 2005. EA is beginning to make movement in the Chinese market outside or licensing PC and console games to Chinese publishers. With the software piracy rate at around 96 percent in China, EA is moving into other sectors of the gaming industry, line online and mobile, that do not suffer some of the problems as PC and console games.

- Elevator LCD advertiser Focus Media received a $30 million investment from Goldman Sachs, 3i, and UCI. Focus Media is the largest elevator advertiser in China, with over 12,000 screens in over 6,000 buildings in China's biggest cities. Focus recorded 14 million yuan ($1.8 million) in profits in October and the company plans to list on NASDAQ next year.

- Tom Group is negotiating to acquire a 20 percent interest in Huayi Brothers Media Group, the biggest private filmmaker on the mainland, as the country opens up its movie industry to foreign investment. The sources say Tom would pay hundreds of millions of yuan for the stake but not framework agreement has been signed. yet. Huayi is planning an overseas listing in three years, according to industry sources. The move follows United States giant Warner Brothers' announcement last month that it was setting up the mainland's first film production joint venture with state-owned China Film Group and privately run Hengdian Group.

Telecommunications

- The trading debut by China Netcom Group (Hong Kong) on the New York Stock Exchange exceeded market expectations, with the company's American depositary shares (ADS) opening at $23.85 each and hitting $25.80 after 20 minutes of trading. This is an 18 percent gain on the on the initial public offering price, on a strong volume. One ADS is equivalent to 20 Hong Kong shares. The fixed-line operator raised $1.1 billion before the dual listing amid robust investor demand. That resulted in an automatic increase of the retail portion of offering to 30 percent of the total from 10 percent, leaving some fund managers with fewer shares than they had hoped for and a potential appetite to buy more in the secondary market.

- The Shenzhen-based Huawei Technology is expected to make $2 billion in sales income this year from its overseas market. The company, one of China's leading telecommunications equipment manufacturers, said that its total sales income this year is expected to hit $5 billion. Its sales in the international market may double this year, with the total overseas sales to exceed $2 billion, about 40 percent of its total. According to a report, Huawei has just signed loan contracts of $360 million with 29 banks. With a 76-percent share in the domestic market, Huawei has provided telecom network solutions for fixed-line, mobile, data communications network and other value-added services for Chinese cell phone operators including China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, China Railcom and China Netcom. At present, Huawei is paying more attention to its overseas market. Statistics show that the firm posted a combined sales revenue of $2.4 billion last year, with 40 customer service centers established worldwide.

Software

- Software vendors Superdata and Kingdee released their Q3 reports, with Superdata reporting a net profit of 24.2 million yuan ($2.9 million) for the nine months ended 30 September 2004, representing an increase of approximately 120 percent as compared to approximately 11 million yuan ($1.3 million) for the corresponding period in the previous financial year. Kingdee recorded a net profit of 24.9 million yuan ($3 million) for the same period, up 32 percent year on year. Both groups are Hong Kong-listed.

Taiwan

Internet

- Taipei city planners said they will build what they say will be the world's biggest "Wi-Fi" network, making cheap, wireless internet access available almost everywhere in the Taiwan capital. Taipei's network is likely to be the world's largest, an analyst from Gartner Asia-Pacific. The Wi-Fi access points that will link computers to the web in Taipei will be attached to traffic and streetlights, creating a network that will cover 90 percent of the city by the end of 2005. Q-Ware Corp, a unit of the Uni-President group, which also holds the 7-Eleven franchise in Taiwan, will build the citywide network. Q-Ware will deploy at least 20,000 access points throughout Taipei at a cost of $70 million. The project has attracted the interest of technology giants Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., which are providing a combination of technical assistance and equipment. Q-Ware will pay Taipei 1 percent of revenues in first 2 years of the agreement and 3 percent in the remaining 7 years. Q-Ware is aiming for a monthly fee of NT$150-NT$400 ($4.6-$12.3) far less than the NT$800-NT$1,000 ($31-$24.6) that fixed-line broadband providers demand in Taiwan. It expects to sign up a third of the city's 3 million residents and break even within 5 years.

Hong Kong

Mobile/Wireless

- Hutchison Telecom, Hong Kong's first and so far only third-generation mobile operator, said it would retain its mass-market, low-tariff strategy when rival SmarTone telecommunications entered the 3G market next month. Hutchison has also launched three new handsets - from LG, Motorola and NEC - and unveiled a new marketing campaign to reinforce the "3" brand before the SmarTone launch. When the mobile giant launched 3G services in January, its aggressively low pricing surprised analysts, as they had previously expected the company to price the service at a premium over 2G. Since then Hutchison has even reduced its tariffs to as low as HK$123 ($16), with more than 1,000 voice minutes and 150 minutes of video calls.

- China Resources Peoples Telephone, the mobile telecommunications arms of China Resources (Holdings), said it was anticipating a pick-up in data revenue next year form its 2.75-generation mobile service as more 2.75G handsets become available. The company is now preparing to offer a 3G service to its customers by leasing 30 percent of Hutchison Telecom's 3G networks. The company's positive outlook, however, did little to sweeten disappointing nine-month results. Net profit dropped 20.5 percent to HK$182 million ($23.4 million), from HK$229 million ($29.4 million) during the same period last year. With HK$1.3 billion ($161 million) in revenue during the period, the growth was almost flat. The worst performance occurred in the first half of the year, when profitability fell considerably because of what the company called a "lingering price-cut effect from the previous year". Third-quarter net profit improved 6 percent from the second-quarter - from HK$59 million ($7.5 million) to HK$63 million ($8.7 million) - on higher data revenue and more prepaid customers. About 40 percent of its 1.1 million subscribers are pre-paid.

Internet

- The complexity and rising cost of ownership will drive IP telephony outsourcing in Hong Kong, according to New World Telecommunications (NWT). The firm said that voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) is now becoming more popular as companies look to save on overseas IDD charges. The market is also becoming more strategic with VoIP. In the past, it used to be cost savings and reduction of operating overheads that drove the market, but now it is to increase functionality and change work patterns, the firm said. At the same time, multinational corporations are replacing their traditional time division-multiplexing (TDM) infrastructure with an IP-based one.

Telecommunications

- Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) unveiled a new 100 Mbps broadband service it claims is the fastest for residential users in Hong Kong. The company also demonstrated a premium one gigabit per second service that will be available by the second quarter next year. The company said it was trying to reposition its brand to provide services with a higher premium. HKBN will charge customers HK$268 ($34) per month for the 100 Mbps service, more than two and a half times the HK$98 ($13) it currently charges for the 10 Mbps service. It is not clear whether HKBN will succeed in luring its traditionally cost-sensitive customers to the more expensive service.

Singapore/Malaysia/Philippines/Indonesia

Mobile/Wireless

- Optus and Vodafone finalized plans to jointly build a $546 million third-generation mobile phone network. Vodafone and Optus, which is owned by Singapore Telecommunications, said they expected to provide 3G services in the September quarter of next year prompting rival Telstra to say its 3G offering would be ready in June 2005. Telstra is negotiating to use the existing 3G network built by Hutchison Telecommunications for its service. The network will involve more than 2,000 base stations across Australia, with initial development concentrating on major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Internet

- StarHub has signed an agreement with Boeing to link their networks for high-speed in-flight internet services. Under the deal, StarHub's subscribers will be able to access wireless broadband services globally while on board a flight. The deal with Connexion by Boeing is the first for an infocomms operator in Southeast Asia. Connexion by Boeing is a leading high-speed in-flight Internet services provider. It has already signed up airlines such as Lufthansa, Japan Airlines and ANA. Singapore Airlines has announced plans to install the Connexion by Boeing system on its long haul aircraft.

- Online auction site eBay said it had launched its operations in the Philippines. The Philippine site, www.ebay.ph, would be maintained from the company's regional office in Singapore, but a management team will be relocating to Manila at a still undisclosed date. The Philippine eBay site was not expected to provide significant revenues but would give the California-based company significant exposure to the growing Internet community in the Philippines, company officials said. eBay conducts online transactions around the world involving 48,000 products and it helped to sell goods worth some US$805 million in the first nine months of this year.

Information Technology

- French sports retailer Decathlon awarded Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) a multi-million dollar, three-year contract to upgrade its Asian communications network. Under the terms of contract, SingTel is to link Decathlon's French headquarters via a private data network, commonly known as VPN (virtual private network) to its offices and warehouses across 10 Asian cities in China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The VPN network would enable Decathlon to communicate with its 600 employees in the region. SingTel is Southeast Asia's largest phone company with stakes in several of the region's major mobile service operators. SingTel officials said the exact value of the contract could not be revealed.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- American IDC Corporation ACNI announced significant progress has been made in developing content to deploy its proprietary Broadcast Internet Television technology in the Philippines. The agreement was signed in October between American IDC's strategic partner RZI Entertainment, Inc., a leading provider of high-speed wireless roaming services, and CMC di Ravenna (Asia), Inc. ACNI will contribute the use of its "Digital Network in a Rack" technology for which it holds licensing rights as well as licenses for content from Omni Media Distribution, Inc, and Hollywood classic movies, television programs, cartoons, etc. from ETV, Inc. RZI will enable ACNI's Broadcast Internet Television to be seen through its Wireless HotSpots where everyone will use their current computers, PDAs and TV monitors to access broadband Internet television. CMC di Ravenna (Asia), Inc. will provide consulting and establish the foundation necessary for ACNI/RZI to deliver its products to the Philippines.

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