A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

Japan

Hardware

- Sharp Corp. is considering increasing production capacity at its new liquid-crystal-display panel plant next year. The firm is scheduled to start operating a new television-use LCD panel production plant in Mie, in central Japan, beginning in January. Sharp has allocated ¥100 billion ($930.3 million) for a "sixth-generation" LCD panel line using huge glass substrates.

Semiconductors

- Elpida Memory Inc. has developed a pair of transistor technologies that significantly boost the read/write speed of DRAM memory chips. Using the technologies, the firm has prototyped a DDR2-standard 512M memory chip that can read and write at a speed of 667Mbps - 25% faster than today's cutting-edge DDR2 DRAM chips. Both technologies involve modifications to the materials used in the fabrication of transistors.

- Orders for Japanese semiconductor equipment shot up 171.4% last month from a year earlier, helped by strong demand for chips used in digital cameras and camera phones. It was the sixth consecutive month of increase and followed a 108.2% surge in October, according to the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan. Orders totaled ¥151.1 billion ($1.4 billion), a level not seen since December 2000.

Telecommunications

- Aica Kogyo Co. has developed an optical communications module that can be easily attached to personal computers and other data communications equipment. The module has a 1Gbps transmission capability and a maximum transmission distance of 550 meters. It houses complex circuitry that users previously had to design on their own when they wanted to introduce optical circuits. Users will now be able to create high-speed broadband data communications networks by simply attaching modules to various data communications equipment and connecting them with optical fibers.

Korea

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- MPMan.com, a major portable audio device maker, has gained a patent in China related to MP3 players, boosting its brand recognition and offering new opportunities for Korean manufacturers. MPMan.com said Chinese patent authorities finally granted a patent for its MPEG portable sound system technology. The company first filed an application for the technology in April 1998.

Mobile / Wireless

- SK Telecom Co. and KTF Co. launched W-CDMA third-generation mobile services but they will beginning accept customers around March next year. The two mobile carriers were required to launch W-CDMA 3G services by the end of this year and they narrowly met the deadline. But investors, analysts and even mobile phone users remain sceptical about the commercial viability of W-CDMA. W-CDMA refers to 3G mobile service that is expected to replace GSM. SK Telecom and KTF officials indicate their test-level W-CDMA networks have shown little progress from current 3G services.

Semiconductors

- Korea's deficit in semiconductor trade was $1.95 billion last year, the largest figure ever, due to a sharp increase in imports of non-memory products, according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. This marks the third year in a row that Korea has registered a deficit in semiconductor trade after posting a $6 billion surplus in 2000. The country had a semiconductor deficit of $845 million in 2001 and almost US$1.3 billion in 2002.

- Korea's major chipmakers are planning a record W7 trillion ($5.8 billion) investment in facilities to keep pace with a brighter outlook for their industry. Samsung has set aside more than W5 trillion ($4.2 billion) for its facility investment at its Hwaseong plant this year, and plans to invest about W68 trillion ($56.9 billion) over the next seven years to expand its plant there. Samsung invested W4.2 trillion ($3.5 billion) for its memory chip plant upgrade last year. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and DongbuAnam Semiconductor are expected to spend W1.5 trillion ($1.3 billion) and W650 billion ($54.4 million) respectively, on facility investments.

China

Mobile / Wireless

- Three Chinese companies have agreed to cooperate on the development of a mobile-phone chip based on the domestically developed time division synchronous code division multiple access, or TD-SCDMA standard. Chongqing CIPT Information Technology Co. has set up a jointly funded company with Ankai (Guangzhou) Software Co. and Shenzhen Ankai Microelectronics Co. to develop a chip for third generation mobile phones using TD-SCDMA. The companies are aiming for commercial production of the chip in September 2004.

Hong Kong

Telecommunications

- Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) has almost doubled its cross-border bandwidth through an arrangement with China Netcom, giving it the largest network capacity of any of the local operators. The bilateral deal means the Hutchison Whampoa wholly owned subsidiary will have a capacity of 22.5 gigabits per second by late January, surpassing rival Reach and China Motion in capacity to handle data traffic between Hong Kong and China. HGC handled traffic for more than 40 international carriers and Internet service providers.

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