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Asia Pulse
February 20, 2006 Monday 1:46 PM EST
From Lexis Nexis

About 70 major cable TV operators across the country will join hands to transmit high-definition television programs through shared fiber-optic lines, a move expected to cut distribution costs, it has been learned.

They will also make joint investments to produce their own content.

By collaborating beyond regional borders, the partners intend to better compete with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (TSE:9432) and the Kansai Electric Power Co. (TSE:9503) group, which have recently begun broadcasting services covering wide areas over fiber-optic lines.

Among the participants in the project will be 49 cable operators, including 18 firms affiliated with Jupiter Telecommunications Co. (TSE:4817) -- one of the nation's largest cable TV operators -- as well as its communications Inc. and Kintetsu Cable Network.

About 20 companies, including Himawari Network, affiliated with Toyota Motor Corp. (TSE:7203), are also considering joining.

The combined services are expected to cover about 70 percent of the 5 million Japanese households with access to multichannel cable TV programming.

The participants will jointly use fiber-optic lines leased by Japan Digital Serve linking Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, to which each cable TV operator will connect their respective lines.

By increasing the number of cable firms using the fiber-optic lines from the current 18 affiliated with Jupiter Telecommunications, line-usage fees will likely fall.

Cable TV firms now provide subscribers with TV programs they receive via satellite from production companies. Because transmitting high-definition programs requires large-capacity lines, however, their reliance solely on satellites is likely to cause capacity shortages in the future.

Moreover, using fiber-optic lines will make it easier for operators to increase the number of channels and prevent bad weather from degrading TV images, industry sources said.