Japan's space junk cleaner prototype closes in on its target

PLUS: Huawei returns to top Chinese smartphone market; China's new IPv6 goals; Malaysia's golden VC Visa

Asia In Brief Japan's effort to start a business disposing of space junk is off to a promising start, after the ADRAS-J satellite spotted its first target and sent back images.

Launched in February 2024, ADRAS-J was sent to find an old HII-A rocket body that was used to launch the GOSAT Earth observation satellite and then left in orbit.

Last Thursday, Japan's space agency (JAXA) published an image of the booster captured by ADRAS-J from a range of "several hundred meters."

JAXA's report on the mission states that assumptions about the HII-1A's orientation – assumed to be upright – have been confirmed.

Another hypothesis – that the spent booster would turn brown after time in space – was also confirmed.

ADRAS-J's current activities are Phase 1 of the Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration (CRD2) project. In Phase 2, scheduled for 2026, JAXA aims to remove debris from orbit – as proof of concept for commercial space junk disposal services.

Sadly, the project relies on automated and/or remote-control equipment: at this time there are no plans for garbage removal jobs in space.

Image of CRD2's target space debris taken by ADRAS-J visible light camera © Astroscale

Image of CRD2's target space debris taken by ADRAS-J visible light camera © Astroscale – Click to enlarge

Chinese smartphone market posts unexpected growth

Strong demand for midrange smartphones in the Lunar New Year period saw China's market for the devices grow – perhaps signaling a recovery.

Analyst firm IDC last week reported that local brands Honor and Huawei enjoyed strong growth, surging to 17.1 percent and 17 percent market share respectively. Oppo went from 19.8 percent market share to 15.7 percent, while gravity hit Apple as its share dipped from 17.8 to 15.6 percent.

The market grew 6.5 percent year over year to 69.3 million units in the first quarter of 2024.

Rival analyst firm Canalys also found strong growth, with 67.7 million shipments, but reported Huawei on top with 17 percent share and Oppo and Honor tied in second place with 16 percent of the market apiece.

Vivo's 10.3 million shipped handsets saw it edge ahead of Apple's ten million, but Canalys rated both as holding 15 percent of the market.

"Honor climbed to the top spot, thanks to its well-rounded product portfolio and the Magic 6 series which came with popular AI features," explained Arthur Guo, IDC China senior research analyst in Client System Research. "Meanwhile, Huawei made a strong comeback and achieved a tie with Honor, though supply constraints will still be a pain point. Apple's price promotions in the quarter were unable to mitigate the impact of the intense competition from Android players."

Canalys senior analyst Toby Zhu suggested Huawei's performance means its HarmonyOS has become the "third OS for smartphones and other edge computing devices, breaking the two-horse race of Android and iOS in Mainland China."

North Korea cybers the South

South Korea's national police last week warned that North Korean attackers targeted defense companies with the aim of stealing information about their tech.

North Korea's cyber operatives – including the notorious Kimsuky gang – also left some malware behind as they rummaged through servers.

National police warned the attacks will continue.

China sets new IPv6 goals

The Cyberspace Administration of China has set new goals for IPv6 adoption.

By the end of 2024, the Administration wants 800 million active IPv6 users and 650 million Internet of Things connections using the protocol.

Targets call for 23 percent of fixed network traffic to be IPv6 by year's end, plus 65 percent of mobile traffic.

Beijing wants more IPv6 home routers, and for government departments to upgrade to the protocol as they upgrade networks.

Also on the agenda is participation in standards groups to develop "IPv6+" and other innovations.

Malaysia dangles golden visa for VCs

Malaysia last week announced a "golden pass" to attract venture capital and tech leaders to the country. The visa reduces registration time from six weeks to two, if approved. "Together with the other agencies, we are also happy to connect VC firms with the local community, and potentially identify partners in their foray to tap into Malaysian and regional opportunities," enthused securities commission chairman Dato' Seri Dr Awang Adek Hussin, speaking at KL20 Summit last Monday.

– Laura Dobberstein

APAC Dealbook

Recent alliances and deals spotted by The Register across the region last week include:

  • Australian telco Telstra struck a five-year deal with professional services outfit Cognizant, which will become "a strategic partner for our software engineering and IT function." Telstra said Cognizant will "help us build our modern software engineering capability."
  • OceanBase, a database vendor that sits within Alibaba's Ant Group fintech arm, scored a win at Chinese autonomous driving systems vendor Haomo.ai.
  • Australian datacenter provider Firmus Technologies last week launched "Sustainable Metal Cloud" (SMC) – a GPU-centric hyperscaler that already operates 1,200 Nvidia H100 GPUs in Singapore, and plans to expand that to 5,000, before expanding into India, Thailand, Australia and Europe in partnership with ST Telemedia. SMC claims its datacenter operation methodology and practices enable it to use around half the electricity consumed by generalist hyperscalers, potentially reducing the cost of running AI workloads by 70 percent.
  • Real-time payments provider Volt launched a one-click payment solution for retail customers in Australia. According to a statement, the feature integrates with PayTo and allows retailers to receive payments instantly. ®

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