• Japan ended March with a total of 119.54 million mobile users, after the operators jointly added 1.30 million new customers in the month. Softbank again led in subscriber additions as it gained 498,100 new customers, bringing its total customer base to 25.41 million, figures from the Telecommunications Carrier Association (TCA) show. Softbank is closely followed by NTT Docomo, which added 482,900 new customers in March to reach a total of 58 million while KDDI signed-up 261,600 new subscribers to bring its total to 33 million. Emobile gained 58,000 new customers and ended March with a total of 3.12 million subscribers. Furthermore, Wimax services provider UQ Communications gained 131,000 new customers in the month to bring its total to 806,600 subscribers and PHS provider Willcom again showed user growth as it signed up 74,800 new customers, which brings the company's total to 3.75 million.
• Sony Corp. cut European prices for its PlayStation Portable video-game player by 24 percent. The PSP player will have a suggested retail price of 129.99 euros (US$187.29), Sony Computer Entertainment said. The price was cut to US$129.99 in the U.S. in February. Sony competes with Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo in the gaming market. Sony may stagger the global release of its next-generation PlayStation Portable game machine, codenamed NGP, after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month disrupted production. The new PlayStation Portable may be introduced in a single region this year, rather than starting in multiple markets in time for the end-of-year holiday shopping season, Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America.
• South Korea’s three operators are each desperate for spectrum as the mobile data race intensifies in the country. Korea Telecom, SK Telecom, and LG U+ each claim they deserve the right to 20Mhz of spectrum in the 2.1GHz band, which the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) is putting up for auction by June this year, Korea Times reported. The country’s largest wireless carrier SK Telecom has justified its position saying it has the lowest amount of frequency per subscriber. SK Telecom says it has 3.49 MHz per 1 million subscribers, as Korea Telecom has 4.96 and LG U+ has 4.43. An SK Telecom spokesperson told the Times that the operator had been excluded from a spectrum allocation exercise for the 800Mhz and 900Mhz bands held last year, and had thus been allocated spectrum in the 2.1Ghz band. SK Telecom intends to convert 5.5 million 2G users over to 3G, in order to free up more spectrum in the 800Mhz band for its LTE service, scheduled for launch in July. The operator said it needed the additional 2.1Ghz spectrum in order to carry out this conversion.
• LG Electronics India is eyeing a turnover of 30 billion rupees (US$679.35 million) this year Iin India with the launch of new smartphone and other feature. The company registered an about 2,000 crore rupees (US$454 million) revenue in 2010. The company launched its new smartphone 'LG Optimus 2X' in the country, priced at 30,000 rupees (US$681). The company claimed the handset is the world's first dual core processor smartphone. It is equipped with Nvidia's new Tegra 2 chipset, four-inch touchscreen, eight MP camera and expandable memory up to 32 GB. The company has also launched LG Optimus Black. Both handsets will be available in the Indian market in a few days. LG Electronics has earmarked Rs 250 crore for marketing and promotional activities in 2011.
• A plan to lower telecommunication-related rates will be announced in May that can help stem hikes in consumer prices. Choi See-joong, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), said that the taskforce made up of the finance ministry and other related agencies are in the process of formulating a master plan. The taskforce aims to see if there is room for lowering rates that have soared to at least 100,000 won (US$92.4) per average household with the wide spread use of smartphones. Smartphone users download more data compared to conventional phones, thus spiking the fees. This view reflects complaints raised by many telecommunication service providers such as SK Telecom and LG Uplus Corp. that actual telecommunication charges have effectively remained unchanged in recent years, with the increase in charges due to extra services that consumers use like downloading movies, games and music. Seoul plans to increase the size of the country's advertisement market this year, which can contribute to the competitiveness of the local media industry.
• Woori Finance Holdings is considering acquiring stakes in telecommunications firms such as KT Corp. The lender will spin off its credit card operations into a separate entity. Rival KB Financial Group Inc. completed such a spinoff earlier this year as part of its efforts to diversify its income base beyond its core banking operations.
• Tianya.cn has completed a buy-back of a stake previously held by Google and plans to start expanding into the overseas markets in the first half of this year, reports the China Tech News. Before the buy-back, Google owned less than 10 percent in Tianya.cn. Currently about 20 percent traffic of Tianya.cn is from overseas visitors. The company plans to open new offices in Singapore and the U.S., so as to expand into Southeast Asia and North America.
• China Mobile signed a memorandum of understanding with SK Telecom focused on joint development of new networks, devices and applications. The partnership shows how Mobile is seeking to create an ecosystem around the platforms it controls, such as TD-LTE and its iPhone software framework. They have worked together on several projects recently, notably last summer on TD-LTE trials. The new MoU is far wider in scope, covering networks, but also device platforms, machine-to-machine services and the apps market.
• China Unicom said its net profit plunged 59.7 percent due to the cost of rolling out 3G services. Net profit for 2010 declined to 3.85 billion yuan (US$587 million). Operating revenue increased 11 percent to 171.30 billion yuan (US$26.2 billion). Mobile service revenue for the year totaled 82.36 billion yuan (US$12.6 billion), an increase of 18 percent and overtaking fixed-line service revenue, which declined 0.4 percent for the first time. The results mark the second year for which Unicom's net profit has at least halved, as the company has spent heavily on handset subsidies to attract more users to its 3G (WCDMA) services. The operator spent 3.17 billion yuan (US$485 million) on 3G handset subsidies, with 80 percent of this spent in the second half due to the increased sales of iPhone 4. Unicom aims to add at least 35 million mobile users this year, including at least 25 million 3G subscriber, similar to rival China Mobile, which also plans to attract over 25 million new 3G users this year.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
· NetDragon recorded a net income of 9.3 million yuan (US$1.4 million) in the fourth quarter of 2010 as revenue increased 12.3 percent q-o-q and 7.3 percent y-o-y. Net income for the full year 2010 was 34.9 million yuan (US$5.3 million) with revenue decreased by 14.5 percent over the year to 531.8 million yuan (US$81.4 million). The company plans to roll-out its action-oriented PC online game Transformers Online in 2011 in mainland China, Russia and other CIS/Asian countries, as well as holding open beta testing for 3D MMORPG World of Dungeon Keeper in the second half of this year. The company aims to start open testing of icombo later this year.
· ZQ Game Technology plans to establish a 100 million yuan (US$15.3 million) subsidiary named Shenzhen Zhongfutong E-commerce to operate a third-party electronic payment service, ZQ Game announced. The plan is pending consent from both shareholders at the company's AGM, and the company will need to get government approval as a non-financial organization seeking to enter the payment services sector. Goldcool has secured 200 million yuan (US$30.6 million) investment for its e-commerce business.
• China Sunergy recorded net income of US$15.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, improving on a net loss of US$3.6 million in the year-ago quarter and flat from the third quarter of 2010. Revenues for the quarter came to US$169.6 million, up 34.8 percent sequentially and 73.8 percent y-o-y, on quarterly shipments of 97.9MW, below the company's previous guidance of 102MW. For the full year of 2011, Sunergy expects to ship 670-690MW of solar products, almost doubling 2010 deliveries of 347.8MW, but first quarter seen shipments remain close to fourth quarter levels with guidance at 98-110MW. The company projects first quarter gross margin to shrink to 9-10.5 percent from 16 percent in the three-months ended December 31.