A week in tech

All the latest tech news from around the region.



- Medical start-up eHope is joining forces with Nihon Edunet Co. to launch a medical examination service using an Internet videophone system as early as this fall. eHope will organize medical specialists from hospitals and clinics and publish their career histories online, enabling users to select their own doctors. Users will then reserve 20-minute counseling sessions with the professionals, during which they will be able to interact directly by videophone so that specialists can see their expressions and complexions and thus provide more accurate diagnoses than are possible over regular phones.

Mobile / Wireless

- NEC Infrontia Corp. will introduce a wireless local area network on October 10 that will triple the data traffic a single access point can handle. The system consists of access points, cards that are inserted into personal computers and personal digital assistants, and power supply units to operate access points. It enables communications within a radius of 50 meters, at a frequency of 2.4 gigahertz and speeds of up to 11 megabits per second. By bundling the packets for transmission, the system increases the amount of data that one access point can handle.

- MediaStick Inc. plans to launch a new payment service developed in cooperation with banks that is based on camera-equipped mobile phones. The start-up is in negotiations with several banks and that it hopes to start the service before the end of the year. The system will be based on a special kind of bar code the company has developed that can be read by using a mobile phone's high-resolution camera, which will initiate a transfer of payment from the user's bank account. Currently, only some phones offered by NTT DoCoMo Inc. have the bar code reader function.


- Elpida Memory Inc. will receive an extra ¥2.7 billion ($23.2 million) in funding from Intel Corp., a move that will help the Japanese semiconductor manufacturer boost its manufacturing capacity for high-end dynamic-random-access memory chips. Elpida, a joint venture between NEC Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. and Japan's only DRAM chip maker, has signed an agreement with Intel Capital, an investment arm of the U.S. chip giant, for the extra funding.


- Network Associates Inc. signed a pact with NEC Corp. to preinstall McAfee virus protection services on NEC PCs in Japan, marking a new strategy to boost the security software maker's disappointing 10% consumer market share there. The move returns Network Associates to direct distribution in the Japanese market. Network Associates lags well behind rivals Trend Micro Inc. and Symantec Corp. in Japan, the No. 3 consumer anti-virus market after North America and Europe. The new pact will make McAfee the only preinstalled anti-virus option on NEC personal computers in Japan.



- Hynix Semiconductor Inc. is in talks with several buyers including U.S. financial services company Citigroup Inc. to sell the beleaguered chip maker's non-memory operations. The company aims to spin off its non-memory operations -- specifically its system-integrated-circuit business -- and raise foreign investment. That may involve some sort of an alliance, selling off a stake or the entire non-memory operations, but negotiations are still underway.

Information Technology

- The Korean government's efforts to develop Korea into a research and development hub are showing progress, with an increasing number of foreign institutes agreeing to set up branches. The Ministry of Science and Technology has recently agreed with France's Institute Pasteur and Russia's State Optical Institute to set up research facilities in Korea. The announcement followed Intel Corp.'s promise to establish an R&D centre for wireless and information technology.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Plenus Entertainment has completed its merger with game portal service provider Netmarble Inc. The merger, first announced in May, drew attention from other dot-com players at a time when investors witnessed a much-awaited rally of Internet firm shares. The combined market capitalization of Netmarble and its parent firm Plenus is worth 580 billion won ($493 million). Plenus, which is involved in both online and offline entertainment fields, is expected to strengthen its position through diversified content ranging from movies to games to animation.

Mobile / Wireless

- Korea's small online portal operators remain cautious about investing in offering mobile Internet services even though the Korean government is set to open up the wireless network infrastructure. The mobile Internet market, which is forecast to grow to 4.7 trillion won ($4 billion) in 2004, is widely deemed as an opportunity for online portals, as well as info-tech ventures, to increase their revenues. However, a majority of small, online content providers, except for a couple of portal heavyweights, are taking a wait-and-see strategy due to lingering uncertainty.

- Samsung Electronics is estimated to have sold about 11.3 million mobile phones in the second quarter and placed third in the worldwide handset market. For the quarter, Samsung controlled a 9.9% share of the worldwide mobile phone market in which some 114.8 million handsets were sold according to Gartner Dataquest. Despite repeated delays in the launch of third-generation mobile phone services in many countries and the effect of the global economic downturn, Samsung's sales rose 16% on an annual basis and its market share inched up by 0.2 per centage points compared with the same period a year ago.

- LG Electronics Inc. reported that it sold a total of 13.4 million mobile handsets worldwide in the first seven months of this year, up 63% from the year-earlier period, due to an increase in exports to the United States and India. Moreover, the firm sold 2.5 million units in July alone, registering its highest-ever monthly performance.


- Hynix Semiconductor Inc. will strengthen its mobile memory business in a bid to carve out a bigger share in the fast-growing wireless chip market. The company would develop 64-megabyte Pseudo SRAM and NAND Flash memory chips within this year, amid surging demand for its Pseudo mobile SRAM chips. Pseudo SRAM chips are compatible with existing SRAM for mobile handsets but with faster data-processing speeds and lower electricity consumption rates. The new chips are customized for next-generation mobile devices that require faster speeds and longer battery lives.


- The Korean Information and Communication Ministry will introduce a new policy charging SK Telecom more for network usage as part of efforts to help smaller carriers stay competitive. The policy will be implemented within this year, is aimed at spurring competition in the mobile market, referring to the lopsided structure in which SK Telecom continues to dominate over KTF and LG Telecom.



- Kyocera Corp. plans to expand its PHS (personal handyphone system) operations in China by increasing combined monthly production of PHS phones there and in Japan to 950,000 units and introducing high-performance units by year-end. Kyocera aims to roughly quadruple PHS phone sales in China to 6 million units this fiscal year. A Kyocera factory in Fukushima Prefecture is to boost its monthly production by 350% to slightly more than 900,000 units. Separately, a facility operated in China's Guizhou Province will increased its monthly output by 150% to 50,000 units.

Mobile / Wireless

- China's drive to create new standards in high technology continue and is part of its broader desire to claim equal footing with the world's top economic powers. By creating homegrown technical standards, China is trying to increase the use of Chinese innovations worldwide. And it is leveraging its own large domestic market to help speed up their adoption. A case in point is when China declared three years ago that it would create its own technical standard for 3G mobile phones and went on to develop its own format for digital television. Most recently, it announced it was creating a different audio and video standard for the next wave of DVD players and video-game players.



- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. raised its third-quarter wafer shipment outlook, and offered its first comments on how the fourth quarter appears to be shaping up. The firm anticipates wafer shipments in the July-September period will be up 10% compared with the second quarter. The figure is slightly better than the one given in statements it made during its second-quarter investors' conference.

Singapore / Malaysia


- Two U.S. business lobby groups complained to the Singapore government that the rates Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. charges international carriers for local-data lines are hurting their city-state members. A joint letter from the Coalition of Service Industries and the Information Technology Association of America, sent to Singapore Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo, backs international carriers who are battling SingTel to get rates lowered.

- A US$250 million bid by Singapore Technologies Telemedia to buy bankrupt U.S. telecommunications company Global Crossing is likely to be accepted later this month. There have been fears the deal might not go through because of U.S. concerns about an overseas business buying a U.S. company that handles sensitive national security data. The deal is being reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment and the committee will present its views to President George W. Bush, after which Bush will have 15 days to decide whether to let the Singapore takeover go ahead.

Hong Kong


- PCCW Ltd. is rolling out a system that delivers television channels over its voice and Internet lines -- the first time a phone company has made a cable-like service available on such a large scale. PCCW will sell the 23 TV channels individually, charging a few dollars each, rather than in the bundles that are typical of cable- and satellite-TV systems. PCCW executives plan to add at least 10 more channels by the end of the year.

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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