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NEC targets overseas markets

Japan's phone giant wants to sell its 3G handsets in Europe and is eyeing China as well.

    NEC, already big in Japan, is ready to make a big move into overseas phone markets.

    According to Yasushi Yoshikawa, general manager of NEC's Mobile Business Development division, 30 percent of NEC's total phone shipments in 2003 were to overseas markets, a figure that is expected to increase.

    "In the next two to three years, NEC will try to have 50 percent from overseas and 50 percent from the domestic market," he said.

    The Tokyo-based electronics and computer maker is currently one of the largest handset manufacturers in Japan. But according to research company Gartner, NEC had less than 3 percent of the overall global market in 2003.

    "When Japanese operators adopted the PDC (Personal Digital Cellular) standard, NEC slowed down the overseas GSM business to concentrate on PDC," Yoshikawa said. "But now, we attack the global market."

    In particular, the company is eyeing the burgeoning Chinese market. It also hopes to crack the European market with its third-generation phones. Already, NEC is an important handset partner for Hutchison's high-speed networks in the United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong.

    NEC's appetite for market share has risen for a couple of reasons, Yoshikawa said. First, the high penetration of mobile phones in Japan means that phone makers like NEC and Toshiba have to look beyond their shores.

    In addition, the convergence of Japan to CDMA (code division multiple access)-based standards has lowered the barriers of entry for overseas manufacturers. Global handset leader Nokia, for example, has released both of its Wideband CDMA models in Japan.

    "Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other global handset vendors are coming into the Japanese market," he said. "So I have to go out."

    Aloysius Choong of CNETAsia reported from Singapore.