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SpeedNet Inc. announced Thursday that it will start offering a high-speed wireless Internet service based on Tokyo Power Electric Co.’s optical fiber networks in parts of Saitama Prefecture on May 25.

The company will charge a flat monthly fee of 4,350 yen for 24-hour Internet connection at 1.5 megabits per second. What’s more, no contract with a third-party Internet service provider is necessary.

Users can access the service with a satellite dish and tuner, which communicates with a nearby antenna base connected to optical fiber lines on Tepco’s street-based electric power poles.

Service areas will be expanded in September to cover the entire city of Saitama — a new city to be created in the prefecture next month. In December, they will be further extended to include parts of Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama, while Ichikawa, Funabashi and Urayasu, in Chiba Prefecture, will be included some time after February 2002.

SpeedNet is a joint venture of Tepco, Softbank Corp. and Microsoft Corp. of the United States.

The three firms announced the joint venture plan in August 1999, but technological stumbling blocks initially forced SpeedNet to postpone the launch and to continue an experimental service in Saitama Prefecture.

In the meantime, rivals have adopted more expensive broadband technologies such as Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines and cable.

On March 21, SpeedNet became a Tepco subsidiary after the utility bought 77.13 percent of its outstanding stocks through a third-party allotment.

Softbank taps Poland

WARSAW (Kyodo) Softbank Emerging Markets (SBEM), a venture capital fund set up by Softbank Corp. and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., opened a regional office in Warsaw on Wednesday to promote e-business investment in Poland.

“By supplying capital to Polish companies operating in e-business and providing them Softbank experience in this area, we want to speed up the technological revolution in Poland,” SBEM President Matt Rothman said.

Rothman said the SBEM office in Poland will also serve as a regional hub for Central and Eastern Europe.

Richard Guziak, head of the SBEM Warsaw office, said Poland was chosen as the fund’s headquarters in Central and Eastern Europe in view of its fast growth in information technologies.

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