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Issue of August 2002 
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CommunicAsia 2002 showcases mobile and wireless future

CommunicAsia 2002, Asia's largest ICT event, was inaugurated on June 18 at the stylish Singapore Expo convention centre in Singapore. That very morning, the front-page headlines in the leading English daily, the Straits Times, blared: "Exports down 6.8 percent last month" and went on to report an even bigger drop in exports from the electronics industry, down by a significant 11.2 percent.

Perhaps the timing of the report was just an unfortunate coincidence, and contrarily, seemed to spur on the organisers and participants into an upbeat mood, indicative of an industry determined to shake off a sluggish past and look forward to a brighter future. A future filled with the promise of wireless serendipity, 3G mobile technology, multimedia messaging and complete convergence via broadband all still just over the horizon, though.

The upbeat mood was infused right at the inaugural address by Singapore's deputy prime minister Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, who quoted copious statistics and studies pointing to the recovery of the Asia-Pacific infocomm markets during the second half of this year.

Reflecting cautious industry sentiment, both exhibitor and visitor numbers were slightly down at CommunicAsia 2002, as compared to the previous year's show. Total visitors were just over 37,000, down three percent from 2001; and exhibiting companies numbered 1,448, 14 percent lower than the previous year. However, the show saw a 13 percent rise in the number of foreign attendees compared to the previous year.

The show was dominated by leading vendors of mobile phones and developers of next-gen communication technology, such as NTT DoCoMo (which proudly showcased the huge success of its i-mode service in Japan), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, NEC, Panasonic, Kyocera and others.

Multimedia messaging: The big buzz at CommunicAsia 2002 was MMS-multimedia messaging service-which will allow pictures and sound to be sent along with a text message over the mobile phone. In parallel, mobile handsets are undergoing a transformation, with several companies introducing models sporting full colour display screens, some with embedded Java capabilities, others with digital cameras built-in. True convergence is finally here or at least will be by year-end, when these phones actually hit the shop shelves in volumes. Of course the base mobile technology will vary, ranging from GSM with GPRS to W-CDMA to i-mode to 3G and beyond. The increased bandwidth required for all the new apps will take a while to fall into place, as third and fourth generation networks evolve so we're looking at 3-5 years before mobile video phones become as commonplace as plain old voice ones are today. And there is no doubt that all the diversity of technology would bring in its own problems of interoperability, billing complexity, regulatory issues, etc.

Meanwhile Nokia which held its own show, Nokia Connections, separately from CommunicAsia introduced the Nokia 7650, a GSM-GPRS based mobile handset with colour-screen and in-built digital camera that has already begun shipping in Finland.

As Bluetooth technology has moved significantly from theory and hype to practicality, the special Bluetooth pavilion attracted a lot of attention, with companies such as eWare, Excel Point, JTDC, GigaWave and Bluenext Technology displaying innovative products and solutions. Also on focus were security solutions for mobile commerce and info-security in general, with all the bigwigs from NetScreen to Checkpoint to Trust5 and others displaying their wares in full splendour.

Launch highlights: Here are some of the other significant products and services that were launched at CommunicAsia 2002:

4G Wireless: Cellonics demonstrated a UWB (ultra wideband) communications setup. UWB is being touted as the next generation of telecom technology, enabling the setup of low power, high bandwidth (100 Mbps-500 Mbps) networks, supporting devices with sense and radar capabilities.

VSAT products: Gilat Satellite networks launched the 360E satellite modem, providing always-on, broadband internet access to Asian corporations and SMEs. Gilat is one of Asia's largest providers of interactive VSAT networks.

GSM encryptor: Infosecurity provider DigiSAFE launched SG2, the first GSM encryptor that supports infrared transmission. It encrypts voice communication between two GSM mobile users.

Bluetooth: The first Bluetooth mobile handsfree car kit-Parrot CK3000-was launched by Bluenext Technology.

 
     
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