On track for CATV

Japanese railways, Tokyo Electric go digital

TOKYO — Several major railways that serve the Tokyo region, led by Tokyu Corp., and Tokyo Electric Power Co., one of the world’s largest power companies, said Friday that they will form a company to distribute digital CATV signals.

The companies will use their fiber optic networks that cover Tokyo and its suburbs — the most densely populated region in Japan — to distribute broadcasting signals to cable companies in a venture that will start operations in April, a Tokyu spokesman said.

Costly venture

Initial seed capital for the company will be 10 million yen ($96,000), but the figure is expected to grow to $9.6 million-$19.2 million once operations kick into higher gear around April 2002, the spokesman said.

“At present it is too costly for the commercial networks or cable TV companies on their own to transmit digital signals over such a large area,” the spokesman said.

The venture will soon build a center for receiving digital signals from satellites and ground stations for distribution over their fiber optic networks.

Issuing licenses

Japan’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will start issuing CATV licenses next year for companies that specialize in transmitting programs.

The other railway operators are Odakyu Electric Railway Co., Tobu Railway Co. and Sagami Railway Co. Japanese railway companies typically own land along their track lines and are strong in retailing. Tokyu, for example, is becoming a major player in the booming multiplex market.

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