Site: Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
3-1-1, Yagumo-Nakamachi, Moriguchi
Osaka 570, Japan
Date Visited: October 21, 1992
Report Author: C. Bostian
Ms. K. Muraki
Dr. Thomas Asabe
Matsushita is a premier consumer electronics company. Its primary brand names in the U.S. are Panasonic, Technics, and Quasar. In Asia, it also uses the National brand name. Matsushita's sales for the fiscal year ending March, 1992, totalled $56 billion, and R&D expenses totalled approximately 6% of sales.
Its involvement in satellite communications is limited to making related consumer products -- i.e., scrambling equipment for teleconferencing and broadcast TV, DBS and digital audio broadcasting (DAB) receivers, and hand-held terminals for the U.S.-based ORBCOMM satellite communications system -- or in making components for spacecraft that will also be useful for consumer equipment. An example of the latter is the company's contract to develop a spacecraft capacitor.
Matsushita's R&D activities are primarily directed at consumer technology. The facility visited focuses on products for 5 to 10 years in the future; nearer-term R&D is performed in the laboratories associated with the business units of the company.
In cooperation with NEC and Toshiba, Matsushita has developed a TV video and scrambling decoder for domestic DBS. In addition, Matsushita is developing its own scrambling system called M-Scrambler ("M" for "Matsushita") for private TV via communication satellites. The receiving terminal units are called IRDs, "integrated receiver/demodulators." DAB service will start in late 1993. Digital TV broadcasting via the BS satellites is planned for 1998. The encoded data rate will be 40 Mbits/sec and the information rate will be 25 to 30 Mbits/sec. Private (teleconferencing) digital TV will come first, in 1993. The IRDs will have a retail price of 180,000 yen. Matsushita expects to sell several million units.
Matsushita has an impressive cordless phone product line to which it will soon add a unit called the PHP ("personal handy phone") which can be used (interchangeably) as a cordless telephone in the home, a cordless telephone in an office PBX environment, and a PCN (personal communications network) hand-held unit for accessing "phone points." Each PHP will have its own telephone number, and PHP units will be able to communicate with each other directly (bypassing the terrestrial network) when within range of each other. PHP units will operate at 1.9 GHz using a 300 kHz channel spacing, TDMA, and pi/4 shifted QPSK modulation. Speech coding will be 32 kbits/sec adaptive pulse code modulation (ADPCM). The RF section will output 10 mW and use GaAs technology.
While the PHP has no direct connection with space, the technology it represents could be very important if proposed LEOSAT networks of supporting hand-held radios become successful. Matsushita already has almost all the technology it needs to make the radios, and it will gain the rest as it develops its ORBCOMM terminal product line.
Matsushita will develop and manufacture the hand-held and vehicle terminal units for the U.S. ORBCOMM LEOSAT system. Except possibly for the antenna (which the company says has not yet been selected), this probably doesn't represent new technology, but it will provide the company with design and manufacturing experience and an early entry into the market for hand-held satellite radios.
Looking to future hand-held terminal development, Matsushita has just completed a series of propagation measurements at L- and C-bands using the ETS-V satellite. Outdoor results were, in Mr. Uwano's words, "Better than I thought." Indoor reception was impossible. The measurements included tests of a variety of modulation types, including Gaussian minimum shift keying (GMSK) and single side band (SSB).
A detailed briefing on Matsushita's fuel cell R&D program was offered. This is aimed at developing auxiliary power systems for large buildings and has no immediate application to satellite communications.
Matsushita is manufacturing a GPSS receiver about the size of a stop watch which retails for 158,000 yen.
As a consumer electronics company, Matsushita does not play a major role in determining the direction of the Japanese satellite communications industry. But as one of the largest and best makers of consumer electronic products in the world, it will be a major player in any successful mass market applications of satellites (e.g., potentially the ORBCOMM system).