Seoul National University (SNU), the top university in Korea, has begun to offer WiBro service to its students. The offering started on September 11th, in which students of SNU could buy yearly service from Korea Telecom for the price of US$50 a year.
Kim Myung-soo, Chief Information Officer and Director of the Seoul National University Computer Center, noted that SNU already has an extensive traditional wireless network provided by Korea Telecom through its Nespot service. The university also provides a number of free Nespot accounts which students can check out of the university's computer center to use for months at a time when they are on campus.
However, WiBro is a significant upgrade to SNU's already extensive computing resources. The basic difference is that moving around will not break the wireless connection of a WiBro-enabled device. And the service, even though it has just begun, is already citywide in Seoul. All subway stations, subway lines, busses, and almost everywhere downtown are able to support a continuous WiBro connection. And, of course, the entire Seoul National University campus.
Professor Kim Myung-soo noted that because of the newness of the technology, there are still some shadowy areas. Outside buildings or near a window the service is much faster than inside. "But it's just a matter of investment. If there are many users, KT will actually install more equipment and the service will actually cover a much broader area," said Professor Kim. He noted that KT had only invested a relatively small amount of money so far.
The implications of this WiBro coverage should be considered for a while. An SNU student could begin to download a large file to his laptop in his dormitory room, possibly some video footage from a famous experiment the student was studying. The student could then pack up his laptop, take it to class, walk around campus, visit with friends at the student center, and the file would still be downloading. The fortunate student could get on a bus and travel down the mountain to the subway stop, enter the subway and ride it to his parent's house, and the file would download without interruptions. WiBro makes this scenario finally possible.
Director Kim Myung-soo gave another concrete example by saying: "Well actually I'm moving around a lot because I have three offices on campus. My own office for my research, and then as a Director over here. And then I have another CIO office in the administration building. So I move around to all these different places." He went on to explain that he always takes his laptop with him and the connection was never broken. And while he did admit that sometimes the WiBro connection was slower than traditional WiFi, he qualified this by saying: "Still I think WiBro provides the best connection, at least for me."
This reporter took a look at the professor's laptop and performed a speed test on it. Even though the device was inside of a building and not near the window, the free online speed test registered 3 megabytes per second (Mbps) download speed, and 300 kilbits per second (kbps) upload speed.
The hardware that is used to create such a remarkable connection is unobtrusive. In some newer technologies support for WiBro connections is built in, but for those customers who are not so fortunate to yet have a late technological gadget, you can buy a small USB dongle to plug into the laptop. After installing the appropriate software, the WiBro connection will stay connected indefinitely.
The university paid a sum of money to KT at the initial stage to support the development of the network on their campus, and had a testing period from June to August of this year. One week after the school began to offer the special discounted service to students, staff, and faculty at the university, over 200 to 300 people have signed up.
The professor noted that most students already have strong wireless and wired internet connections at home and at school, so switching to WiBro is a choice that may take some consideration. But he is confident that students will be won over by the convenience and mobility that WiBro provides. If they bring a laptop to campus every day, they need WiBro. "Our plan is actually to get rid of all these PCs. They're expensive, and they take up a lot of space and a lot of money," Director Kim explained. He noted that the University Computer Center's long-term plan was to provide a place for students to use their own laptops, rather than provide PCs for their use.