Japan public-private group considers advanced terminal

The Japanese government and a group of the country's major universities and electronics and telecommunication companies are considering jointly developing a portable terminal that allows users to access digital broadcasting, wireless LAN and 3G (third-generation) telecommunication networks, a government official said Monday.

The group, which consists of 26 members, is considering developing a terminal the size of a PDA (personal digital assistant) that will also offer a recording function for video or audio, network browser software, and authentication and billing functions, according to a government official who declined to give his name.

Japan's Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT) formed a research committee in November 2001 to look into ubiquitous network technologies. Such technology is supposed to spread connectivity, making information available anywhere and anytime and is a current hot topic in Japan.

A PDA-type terminal device is one of the blueprints the committee has as parts of its image of future ubiquitous network technologies, the MPHPT said. The committee has also been discussing business models, security issues and higher-speed network technologies as part of its work according to a MPHPT statement.

Among the participants from the business world are Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., NEC Corp., Sony Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT), NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and several major TV broadcasting companies. Several of the country's top universities are also involved, including Tokyo University, Osaka University, Chuo University and Keio University.

The committee found the three technologies -- digital broadcasting, wireless LAN and 3G telecommunication -- are key technologies that can benefit from being integrated because each has its own merits and drawbacks such as:

-- Digital broadcasting allows users to receive high-quality moving images, even while on the move, and, when integrated with the Internet, will allow users to participate in the broadcasting services. However, current devices to receive digital broadcasts are too large to be easily mobile.

-- Wireless LAN has a high-speed connectivity and allows for smooth transmission of high-volume data. However, the coverage area is limited to within around 100 meters of its base station.

-- 3G telecommunication can be used for broader coverage than wireless LAN. However, the data transmission speed is slower.

By integrating the three, the researchers believe that each can make up for the weak points of the others and so will help promote each technology, the MPHPT said.

The two main focuses on this project are to promote digital broadcasting, which got off to a slow start in 2000 in Japan, and to advance global standardization, the ministry said.

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