Korean and Japanese business relations are growing stronger in the technology sector. Two partnerships with Korea Telecom, one with NTT DoCoMo and the other with Sony, are moving closer to completion this month. This is a good sign for closer economic ties between the neighboring countries in future years.
A business partnership deal started in 2005 between Japanese cell phone giant NTT DoCoMo and Korea Telecom Freetel (KTF) involves setting up a venture fund in Korea. This fund will begin in November and will be managed by KTBnetwork Co. Ltd., a Korean investment firm, according to an official statement by NTT DoCoMo.
The Japanese and Korean telecoms companies will each invest 13.5 billion won (US$14.8 million), and each hold a 45 percent stake in the fund. KTBnetwork will take the remaining 10 percent by investing 3 billion won (US$3.3 million). The fund will be in operation until 2013, with an option for a two year extension.
The purpose of the fund, which is named KTF-NTT DoCoMo Mobile Investment Limited Partnership, is to invest in promising mobile and IT-related companies. Both companies will aim to identify promising ventures in the mobile and IT sectors in order to tie up technology applications.
This is one of the goals of the joint business and capital partnership agreement that KTF and NTT DoCoMo signed on December 15, 2005. In the original agreement, DoCoMo agreed to invest approximately 564.9 billion won (US$620.8 million) to acquire a 10% stake in KTF by the end of the 2005. The four principal objectives of the original agreement were to first improve user friendliness for the customers of both networks by increasing the availability of roaming services. Second, the companies wanted to seek new business opportunities together. Third, both companies wanted to examine cost-saving opportunities of standardizing their offerings with common equipment. And finally, both entities wanted to ensure that KTF successfully deployed a nationwide WCDMA network using DoCoMo's WCDMA deployment expertise.
Also in November, KT and Sony Computer Entertainment Korea (SCEK) will launch an IPTV service for the PlayStation 3 game console. The console, in addition to playing games, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, will also act as a set top box for KT's IPTV service Mega TV. This is the first time Sony has formed such an alliance with a telecoms company. However, there is no specific news on pricing details for the specific PlayStation 3 service yet.
Lee Young-hee, chief of the Media Center at Korea Telecom, said: "With this partnership, Mega TV will include highdefinition games and Blu-ray media in its periphery. We will seek more cooperation with SCEK to create synergy." The Mega TV service launched in June of this year in the Seoul metropolitan area, but wasn't rolled out to all of KT's 5.5 million broadband users until September.
The move follows revelations by Microsoft that it plans to enable its own next-generation games console the Xbox 360 to offer IPTV services, while rumors are circulating that an IPTV service will be launched for the console in partnership with UK telecoms carrier BT by the end of this year.
IPTV is a high-definition TV broadcasting service that allows users to download programs via broadband Internet and play them on TVs at any time they want. KT and Hanaro Telecom are two IPTV providers in South Korea. The PlayStation 3 is a powerful computing machine itself, equipped with large data storage, fast graphic processor and a Blue- Ray disc driver. It is the first time that Sony has made such an alliance to use the PS3 as an IPTV set-top box.
The PlayStation series is the world's best-selling video game platform. But the PS3 has been struggling in the US and Japanese markets while its rival Nintendo is faring well with the cheaper Wii game machine.
If Korea and Japan could join forces together to speed their technological development, the whole world will benefit. Let's hope that further international cooperation between Japan and Korea develops in the near future.