A week in tech, May 22-26

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A week in tech, May 22-26

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

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KDDI and Google announced their entering an agreement to offer an Internet search engine service that will provide Google's technology to subscribers of KDDI's au cellular phone service. Under the agreement, subscribers of KDDI's EZweb handset-based internet access service can use Google's search engine function. The alliance with KDDI marks Google’s first with a mobile phone operator in Japan. Google has similar deals with cell phone service providers in Europe. The report said KDDI is slated to remain its only partner here for the time being even as Google stated it also wants to work with other cell phone service firms in the future.
Four companies of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone group disclosed its plan to make 7,000 base stations commonly available for their customers for wireless internet connection services by next March. NTT Communications, NTT East, NTT West and NTT DoCoMo have already deployed their respective wireless LAN base stations for internet connection services at railway stations, airports, restaurants and other facilities. In a bid to counter the Softbank group, which has some 3,500 base stations in Japan, the four NTT firms will commission a specialist company to run such base stations that can be commonly used by their respective customers. Mobile/Wireless
A report said Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley were chosen to arrange the initial public offering of Willcom, a Japanese mobile phone company owned by Carlyle Group Inc. The two US banks join Daiwa Securities SMBC in managing a stock sale that may raise as much as ¥100 billion ($892.1 million). The report said the sale is expected to take place in the first quarter of next year. Formerly known as DDI Pocket, Willcomm offers wireless phone and internet access services. The IPO is seen as the largest telecommunications offering in Japan since NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile phone company, sold ¥950 billion ($8.4 billion) of shares in 2001.
Softbank Corp. announced that the name of the mobile phone unit it acquired recently will be changed to Softbank Mobile Corp. The company’s top official said that the company has decided to use its group name as the brand for the new mobile services “because it will enable the entire Softbank group to cash in on resultant synergy effects most effectively.” Softbank also said that it would set up a joint venture with Vodafone Group Plc to develop mobile phone handsets. Softbank, the Japanese company, acquired the unit from the British firm.

Sony Corp revealed its plans to unveil new client software that will extend its LocationFree TV platform to Macintosh computers and a wider range of mobile devices. LocationFree TV is a platform that streams a live video and audio signal from a base station to client devices. It allows users to watch TV and video from devices in their living room on a remote computer, so long as there is a broadband connection between the base station and the client. The new client software is a product of two recent licensing agreements. One, with Access Co, covering the development of clients for devices like cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) and secondly, a Mac client, Kaga Electronics.

Toshiba, the world's second-biggest maker of NAND flash memory, announced that it is considering building two more factories, including its first overseas plant, in a bid to compete with rivals in the market. The company said it may shell out some ¥300 billion ($2.6 billion) in setting up its fifth NAND flash plant in northern Japan, with the sixth being planned for Singapore. The company said it is investing some ¥622 billion ($5.5 billion) in its semiconductor unit over three years to meet rising demand for the chips used in gadgets that include Apple Computer’s iPod nano music players and mobile phones. The company, whose NAND memory market share is half that of Samsung, is expected to meet increasing competition as Intel enters the market valued at $13.8 billion this year. ISuppli said Toshiba holds about 22 percent share of the global flash memory market in 2005, with Samsung, the industry's leader, owning a 53-percent share. In a separate development, Intel, the world's biggest computer-chip maker, and memory-chipmaker Micron Technology disclosed that they would spend $1.2 billion each to enter the growing NAND memory market. ISuppli predicts that all global sales of NAND flash are expected to rise 29 percent this year to $13.8 billion.

Telecontinuity, the world's first provider of a survivable, disaster-proof backup telecommunications network, announced it would be opening an office in Kyoto, Japan to deploy its Survivable Communication Network technology in Japan and throughout the Pacific Rim area. The company said it expects to have its Survivable Communication Network operational in Japan in the second half of 2006. In addition to Kyoto, TeleContinuity also expects to open an office in London to service the European market. Through the Kyoto and London offices, TeleContinuity will provide international services to companies and government agencies that need to maintain telephone continuity during any type of disaster, emergency, or evacuation. TeleContinuity is focused on providing telecommunications-assurance services to government and businesses customers worldwide.

Dacom announced that it has signed an MOU with CJ Cablenet to provide a nationwide, interactive banking service on aTV platform. Dacom is already signed up with CJ Cablenet's competitors, KDMC and BSI, to provide T-banking services. CJ Cablenet is providing T-banking through Woori Bank and Nonghyup. Through its partnership with Dacom, CJ Cablenet is seen as being able to add six more banks.
The South Korean government said it is considering rating web sites on how well they protect the personal data of their subscribers. According to a 2007 budget plan of the Korea Information Security Agency (KISA), the state-backed agency seeks to phase in a five-grade rating system. The government source said the ranking of web sites would be from one to five in accordance with its collection of personal data and information revelation so that users can recognize its security level at a glance. The report also stated that KISA seeks to create criteria for assessing web sites through field tests on web site operators and surveys of users. Industry experts are saying that recent problems with Web site security prompted KISA, affiliated with the Ministry of Information and Communication, to come up with the measure.
Korea.com, a portal operated by Daesung Group announced its move to enter the global market, showing a multilingual site focusing on foreign users. Korea.com is to open the multilingual site supporting English, Japanese and Chinese, which is designed so that users abroad may be automatically connected to the relevant language page depending on the user's web browser version. At present, portals like Naver and Yahoo have operated independent sites by local corporations, but it is the first case that a portal site offers an automatic multilingual connection service. The multilingual site is expected to provide important common information and news of the country first and special information like Korean culture, tourism, history, geography, investment, and community service. It will be operated focusing on differentiation depending on languages; Japanese site offers tourism contents focused on Korean trends, Chinese site with content focusing on traditional Korean culture and an English site with overall information about Korea.
An official disclosed that KT has filed for a patent for INN (Internet News Network) and is expecting to receive it by the end of this year. The company said that once it receives the patent, it plans to set up a joint venture company with equity investment from global broadcasting companies such as NHK, KBS, CNN and BBC to provide a service through the IPTV network. The company, however, said that that its entry into the market will not employ the KT brand but through a partner with a major global broadcasting company.
Samsung Electronics announced its partnership with Bell South Corp. for cooperation in the next generation internet protocol (IP), a move that is seen as the company’s way of entering the next generation IP convergence market in the US. Under the alliance, Bell South said it plans to begin Triple Play Service (TPS) combining internet, broadcasting, and telephone with the use of the next generation IP terminals 'Soho Master', supplied by Samsung. TPS allows sharing voice, movie, and picture as well as internet broadcasting through IP terminals supplied by Samsung. The two companies said they are aiming to develop the next generation of the IP terminal market and lead the IP convergence market in North America. Bell South is a US-based telephone and high-speed internet provider and has 4.6 million subscribers to telephone and 1.7 million subscribers to digital subscriber line (DSL).
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
FIFA Online, an online soccer game developed by Neowiz and EA (Electronic Arts) will start open beta service soon. The company said open beta will continue during the World Cup games and commercial service will start soon after.
Observers note that South Korea's two versions of video-on-the-move, called digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB), are seeing intense competition in the domestic market. Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), a broadcaster of terrestrial DMB, said it plans to expand coverage of the go-anywhere TV from the current small service areas in and around Seoul to the whole nation, before the kickoff of the 2006 World Cup in Germany next month. TU Media, which is in charge of satellite DMB, revealed that it is airing adult contents after the country's broadcasting authorities gave the green light to such a plan. The country’s Ministry of Information and Communication said it has allowed KBS to broadcast a pair of video channels nationwide through terrestrial DMB terminals. TU Media, an affiliate of the country's top mobile operator SK Telecom, plans to add an adult channel for those over the age of 20 later this month, which will charge an extra monthly fee of W3,000 ($3.1) for them in addition to the overall W13,000 ($13.7) won rate a month.

KTF announced that it has signed a $400,000 network-consulting contract with Indonesian CDMA operator, Mobile-8. Since Mobile-8 started Indonesia's first CDMA mobile telecom service in 2003, KTF said it has been providing them with an integrated consulting service for the last three years, worth $13 million. The network consulting contract that was signed is an extension of the original contract signed in 2003.

SK Telecom announced that it has started a global roaming service in Germany ahead of the 2006 World Cup soccer finals. The roaming service, which allows handsets to work on mobile phone networks in both South Korea and Germany, was jointly offered by O2 Plc, a British wireless company, and E-Plus, a German wireless unit of Dutch telephone company Royal KPN NV. This marks the company’s third global roaming service in Europe after Italy and France.
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