A week in tech

All the latest tech news from around the region.


Mobile / Wireless

- Hikari Tsushin Inc. said that group pretax profit totaled ¥2 billion ($17 million) in the three months ended June 30. The mobile phone and office equipment marketing operations grew, and margins improved as well. Consolidated sales came to ¥39.5 billion ($335.9 million), 26 per cent of the full-year sales forecast. Sales of mobile phones rose 26 per cent on the year to 315,000 units. Operating profit totaled ¥4.1 billion ($34.9 million). The operating profit margin improved by 2 percentage points from three months earlier to 10.4 per cent due to increased sales of cellular phones and restructuring steps like closing unprofitable locations.

- NTT DoCoMo Inc. said it plans to buy back around 1.8 per cent of its own shares for ¥250 billion ($2.1 billion). The move comes after DoCoMo got shareholder approval in June for a share buyback of up to 2.5 million shares for as much as ¥600 billion ($5.1 billion). Under the share buyback plan DoCoMo intends to buy its own shares at ¥272,000 ($2,313) per share from Aug. 19 to Sept. 8.

- J-Phone Co. plans to begin offering Vodafone live! Internet connections via mobile phones in October. J-Phone is also changing the brand name of all its services to that of its parent company, U.K.-based Vodafone Group Plc, effective Oct. 1. J-Phone began offering 3G handsets last December using the W-CDMA global standard, but it did not offer photo transmission or other Internet connection services. Together with its new service in October, J-Phone will begin offering new V801SA phones made by Sanyo Electric Co. that will be able to transmit data at speeds up to 384Kbps. The new phones will also work with GSM networks in Europe and elsewhere.


- NTT Corp. will launch a new type of videophone service that utilizes the B Flets fiber-optic connection service for a television quality bi-directional communications experience. The new videophone service will use the computer monitor as the video screen, generating a TV-quality experience due to the high bandwidth of fiber-optic lines. With B Flets, the videophone data can be sent at a speed of 6Mbps, which is more than 10 times faster than is possible with ADSL service, and eliminates the sound and video delays that can make teleconferencing a disconcerting experience.

- By helping Internet Initiative Japan Inc. rebuild its business through an investment, the NTT group aims to strengthen its IP-related operations, which NTT wants to make one of its key business areas. With its core landline operations shrinking, NTT plans to build a business model that will replace its existing telephone operations with an alliance with IIJ, which is known for its technological prowess. Indeed, telecommunications professionals give high marks to IIJ's IP-related technology.



- Prices of key memory and graphic parts of computers and digital products have sharply increased recently due to a supply shortage of memory chips, local electronics vendors said. Domestic retail prices of memory devices used in digital cameras, laptops and personal digital assistants have grown by up to 40 per cent over the past month. Prices of graphic cards are also on the rise as demand increased largely due to the popularity of sophisticated online games and graphic software programs.


- Korea's major portals, NHN and Neowiz, report positive revenue growth. NHN, which runs major search portal Naver.com, posted a revenue of 76.5 billion won ($65.5 million) in the first half of this year. The figure also surpassed the company's 2002 revenue of 74 billion won ($63.4 million). Operating profit surged to 34.1 billion won ($29.2 million) and current profit rose to 34.8 billion won ($29.8). NeoWiz posted an operating profit of 9 billion won ($7.7 million) on revenue of 21.4 billion won ($18.3 million) in the second quarter. Its first half operating profit surged to 17.3 billion won ($14.8 million) on revenue of 41.5 billion won ($35.5 million).

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Samsung Electronics would export the online game Mixmaster to a Japanese game distributor, Broad Game. Samsung said the public trial service of the game would begin early next year. Samsung also signed an agreement with a Chinese distributor for export in May while an open trial service of the online game started in April in Korea.

Mobile / Wireless

- CellVic, a small venture firm specializing in personal digital assistants, would challenge Samsung Electronics in the booming smart-phone sector. CellVic would introduce a new PDA phone model that will match all the features of Samsung's MITs M400 model, a much-touted smart phone. The difference that CellVic is stressing is its much cheaper price. About a month ago, Samsung unveiled the MITs M400, a Microsoft Windows-powered smart phone that allows users to take photos, record video clips and watch television programs.

- Kookmin Bank and LG Telecom Co. signed an agreement to provide banking services via mobile phones. The service, dubbed Bank On, will enable Kookmin Bank customers to transfer and withdraw funds, view account balances, as well as pay transportation fares through their mobile phones. No fees will be charged for using the service until May 2004. LG Telecom and Kookmin said they plan to continue their partnership in expanding the range of mobile financial services.



- TCL International Holdings Inc. said its net profit rose 4.7 per cent during the first half despite slower sales growth due to the outbreak of SARS. Its net rose to HK$265 million ($34 million) during the six months ended June 30, compared with HK$253 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 16 per cent to HK$6.3 billion ($807.7 million) from HK$5.4 billion ($692.3 million). The company's mobile-phone operation, TCL Mobile, which reports some results separately, experienced a 59 per cent jump in sales. TCL entered the mobile-phone business three years ago, but handsets contributed nearly as much to its results as TV sets did during the latest period. TCL raised its full-year production target for mobile phones to 9.5 million units from nine million units.

Mobile / Wireless

- Domestic cell phone makers have risen from obscurity and will supply nearly half of the estimated 80 million to 90 million cell phones in China this year. In China's crowded and competitive cell phone market, Chinese companies are capturing much of the market's growth by manufacturing new models more often than Motorola, Nokia Corp. and other overseas rivals. For these foreign companies, the rapid rise of China's cell phone manufacturers has dampened growth but many of the domestic companies still utilize imported computer chips and software.

- Ericsson has signed a $600 million agreement with Guangdong Mobile Communication Corp. Ltd. for the expansion of the GSM network in Guangdong province. With the expansion, the capacity of Guangdong Mobile's GSM network will reach 36 million subscribers. According to the agreement, Ericsson will provide infrastructure equipment including hardware and software in this expansion. Nanjing Ericsson Panda Communication Co., Ericsson's largest joint venture in China, will provide the contracted equipment.



- Chunghwa Telecom Co. said its first-half net profit fell 4.6 per cent to NT$23.9 billion ($697.1 million) from NT$25.1 billion ($729.3 million) in the year-earlier period. The fall in profit in the six months to June 30 was due to increased marketing expenses. Chunghwa Telecom also set aside more funds than a year earlier to provide for customers' overdue mobile-phone payments. The company's operating costs rose to NT$44.5 billion ($1.3 billion) from NT$43.4 billion ($1.3 billion) in the period.

Singapore / Malaysia / Philippines / Indonesia

Mobile / Wireless

- AirAsia has launched what it calls the world's first flight-booking system using text messaging on cell phones. The three million subscribers to mobile service from Maxis Communications can book their flights that way. The Malaysian carrier is negotiating with other cell phone providers to expand the service. Travelers begin by sending a message to the company. The customer then gets a reply with a list of options, numbered one to five. To book a flight, for instance, customers reply by typing "1." The company then responds with a list of codes for destinations. All told, customers send a series of seven messages to choose such options as single or return ticket. In the last stages, passengers send their identity card or passport number and credit card details.


- Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. will press ahead with two new undersea-cable projects to carry communications traffic despite the recent default of its 59.5 per cent-owned C2C Pte. Ltd. Asian cable unit. SingTel committed to plans for the two new cable networks last year. The roughly $30 million Thailand-Indonesia-Singapore network is a regional 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) submarine-cable joint project that will land in Songkhla in Thailand, Batam in Indonesia and Changi in Singapore. The larger Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-4, or Sea-Me-We-4, network will involve SingTel as part of a 13-member consortium to build a $1 billion network that will connect 12 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Hong Kong


- Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. signed up about 400,000 customers to its advanced mobile-phone service during the past three months. Reporting its six-month financial results, Hutchison expressed confidence that the mobile-phone service currently available only in parts of Europe and Australia would reach a previously stated target of two million customers by year-end, from its current level of 520,000. The reiteration of that target is a sign Hutchison will continue to aggressively undercut rivals on the price of voice calls, despite the operating losses it is sustaining as a result. Hutchison posted a 2 per cent rise in first-half net profit to 6.1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($778.4 million) for the period ended June 30 as hefty losses in its telecommunications business were offset by gains in debt-securities trading, ports operations and a Canadian oil unit.

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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