저작권자 © Korea IT Times 무단전재 및 재배포 금지
Right now in Korea, the buzzword in the telecoms industry and among hi-tech savvy young consumers is "WiBro" - the country's homegrown portable Internet service, which was officially launched last month for the first time in the world. KT and SK Telecom, Korea's two main fixed-line and wireless operators. started signing up WiBro subscribers on June 30 in designated areas of Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. Korea already boasts the world's highest rate of broadband penetration, at 25.5 subscribers per 100 individuals in 2005, according to statistics from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). The wireless broadband standard will support connection speeds from 1 to 3 megabits per second (Mbps). WiBro's core technology, developed by Samsung, is designed to provide a connection even when users are traveling at speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour -- an ability that its competitor WiMAX, developed by Samsung's competitor Nortel, currently lacks. In late 2004, Intel and LG Electronics agreed on interoperability between WiBro and WiMAX. The service initially will be limited to the Seoul metropolitan area, but the companies plan to expand it to surrounding cities by early 2007 and nationwide by 2008. KT invested over $100 million in WiBro in 2005, and expected to put in five times that amount in 2006 alone. SK Telecom said it would invest a total of $833 million in WiBro by 2011. The service may give a much-needed boost to revenues for the two companies, which face a largely saturated telecommunications market. Korea's telecommunications density is among the highest in the world. But Korean telecom analysts have noted that SK Telecom, in particular, has been a bit hesitant to push WiBro, fearing the technology may cannibalize its 3G CDMA 2000 1x and EV-DO voice and data services. KT also fears that its wireless Internet hot spot network, Nespot, might be undermined by the better reach of WiBro. Good uptake of WiBro in Seoul, however, could assist Samsung in its goal to capture and dominate global markets for its beefed-up WiMAX service if it is shown to be a huge success among Korean consumers.