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No. 366, March 2000

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Japanese Companies in the US


In fairly quick order, NEC AMERICA, INC. found a contract manufacturer to buy its 15-year-old Hillsboro, Oregon communications network equipment and automotive electronics plant and continue production under the NEC brand name (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 362, November 1999, pp. 12-13). Singapore's NATSTEEL ELECTRONICS LTD. will pay $200 million for the facility, which, by coincidence, generated sales on that order in 1999. It also has a three-year supply contract with NEC America that should go into effect April 1. NatSteel Electronics will take over the plant's 700-person work force. It says that no layoffs are planned, even though the factory is operating only at 60 percent capacity. To boost that rate, NatSteel Electronics hopes to win outsourcing contracts from other manufacturers. NEC will use the proceeds from the sale for Internet investments.

Like other Japanese makers of high-speed optical network equipment, HITACHI, LTD. is trying to position its products to capitalize on the huge amount of investment going into communications infrastructure in the United States. The company's Advanced Multiservices Network family, particularly the AMN 6100 DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) system, is a primary focus of this strategy. HITACHI TELECOM (USA), INC., which makes the AMN line at its Norcross, Georgia facility, announced two immediate enhancements to the AMN 6100 as well as a growth path over the next year-plus. One addition is transmux (transparent transponder/multiplexer) capability. This feature multiplexes OC-12 (622 megabits per second) and OC-48 (2.5 gigabits per second) circuits onto the OC-192 (10-Gbps) channels of the AMN 6100 for full utilization of the system's backbone transport bandwidth as well as savings in footprint and such other operating costs as power consumption. The other AMN 6100 upgrade available now is an optical add/drop multiplexer capability through which one-fourth of the system's channels can be added or dropped at an amplifier site. Upcoming enhancements include in-service growth to 64 OC- 192 channels (640 Gbps of capacity) or to 128 OC-192 channels (1.28 terabits per second of capacity).

Through a partnership with ARTISOFT, INC., a Cambridge, Massachusetts supplier of computer telephony and communications software, TOSHIBA CORP. is moving into the emerging world market for server-based PBXs (private branch exchanges) for small and midsize businesses. Such products allow for the integration of Internet technologies and give companies a common strategy for managing voice and data traffic. Under the three-year deal, which is being executed by the Telecommunication Systems Division of Irvine, California-based TOSHIBA AMERICA INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INC., the company will license Artisoft's TeleVantage PBX solution and customize it for incorporation with its Strata CS line of computer telephony systems and communications server products. TAIS and Artisoft will join forces on international marketing — including, perhaps as soon as next year, Japan — as well as on technical collaboration. As part of their agreement, TAIS made an equity investment of undisclosed size in Artisoft.

KYUSHU MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC CO., LTD. has joined such big names as CISCO SYSTEMS, INC. in investing in SHAREWAVE, INC. The El Dorado, California company is in the forefront of the drive to bring high-performance, multimedia-capable broadband wireless home networking to the mass market. Last spring, ShareWave teamed with Kyushu Matsushita Electric to accelerate the development of high- speed, low-cost home networking devices using its 11-Mbps wireless components and Whitecap network protocol (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 357, June 1999, p. 30).

KYOCERA WIRELESS CORP. is in operation, having completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of QUALCOMM INC.'s $1.4-billion-a-year CDMA (code-division multiple access) wireless handset business (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 364, January 2000, p. 10). San Diego, California- headquartered KWC is in charge of the design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and customer service of existing Qualcomm digital cellular phones and new Kyocera wireless handsets. These products range from entry-level CDMA wireless phones to next-generation models with advanced PDA (personal digital assistant), Internet access and e-mail capabilities.

The first products previewed by KYOCERA WIRELESS CORP. are targeted at opposite ends of the market. Occupying the entry-level space are the QCP 2035, a trimode phone that operates on 1,900-MHz CDMA digital PCS (personal communications services) and 800-MHz CDMA digital and analog cellular networks, and the QCP 2008, an 800-MHz dual-mode CDMA digital and analog cellular handset. Both weigh just over four ounces and have changeable translucent faceplates. They feature talk times of up to 3.75 hours and standby times of up to 5.5 days in digital mode. At the other end of the market, KWC introduced the QCP 3035, a trimode CDMA phone with such features as a built-in speakerphone, voice- activated dialing, Web-browsing and e-mail capabilities, and rapid text-entry technology. All three products are expected to ship in the third quarter of 2000.

After ending U.S. production of analog wireless phones in March 1998 because of rising costs and weak sales, MATSUSHITA COMMUNICATION INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. is set to return this year to the huge American cellular market. Actual reentry plans are still in flux, however. One possibility is to resume output at MATSUSHITA COMMUNICATION INDUSTRIAL CORP. OF U.S.A. in Peachtree City, Georgia, which primarily manufactures automotive audio products. Alternatively, handsets could be supplied from MCI's offshore plants. Whatever the source, the initial products will be digital phones that operate on the TDMA (time-division multiple access) network, the most prevalent digital wireless standard in the United States. For the last two years, MCI, which is a far bigger player in Japan's cellular market than it is overseas, has kept its finger on the pulse of the U.S. mobile phone market through MATSUSHITA MOBILE COMMUNICATION DEVELOPMENT CORP. U.S.A. in Suwanee, Georgia.

Digital wireless network technology might not be as advanced in the United States as it is in Japan, but the sheer size of the American market makes this country a magnet for Japanese suppliers. SHARP CORP., for example, has forged an alliance with LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES INC. to codevelop CDMA-format digital cellular handsets and wireless multimedia devices. The partnership will draw on Sharp's expertise in making cell phones compact and lightweight and Lucent's strength in building CDMA network infrastructure. The first Sharp-brand CDMA handsets should appear on the market in the spring of 2001. .....For its part, SHINTOM CO., LTD., which now sells roughly 1 million analog cell phones here annually through its Torrance, California subsidiary, plans a September release of digital handsets that conform to the GSM (global system for mobile communications) standard. This format is most prevalent in Europe, but it is starting to make inroads in the United States. Other Shintom products scheduled for introduction this year include a dual-mode TDMA digital/analog handset.

TAIYO YUDEN CO., LTD., a manufacturer of high-frequency modules for communications, computer and other applications, has tied up with a second American company in an effort to get a head start on products based on the next-generation Bluetooth short-range wireless communications standard. Its latest alliance is with SYBERSAY COMMUNICATIONS CORP., a Sunnyvale, California start-up that is developing what it calls wireless personal link interfaces between people and devices of all types. These will allow consumers to operate cell phones, PDAs, PCs and other products hands-free using proprietary voice-recognition software. The agreement includes a $1 million equity investment by Taiyo Yuden as well as the provision of development funds to SyberSay. The first product to emerge from the partnership will be the SyberPod miniature wireless transceiver. It should be available later this year. Taiyo Yuden also will introduce SyberSay products in Japan. Its other Bluetooth alliance is with SILICON WAVE, INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 362, November 1999, p. 11).

Continuing to gain ground on MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD. in the digital studioand field broadcasting equipment market, SONY CORP. has landed a $15.6 million or so contract from NATIONAL BROADCASTING CO. The order includes MPEG IMX videotape recorders, which can transfer data at a rate of 50 Mbps, digital switchers, digital multieffect systems and monitors. Sony also is supplying digital broadcasting equipment to CBS CORP. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 363, December 1999, p. 13) and to CABLE NEWS NETWORK INC. (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 356, May 1999, pp. 9-10).

An exchange rate of ¥109=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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