The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) announced yesterday that it plans to spend approximately 34 trillion won (US$24.3 billion) to create what it calls an Ultra Broadband convergence Network (UBcN), which is a unified communications infrastructure for telephony, broadcasting, and Internet at speeds of up to one gigabit per second for wired connections and 10 megabits per second for wireless connections. Every device will be connected to it allowing for unprecedented communication between, well, everything. This is to be done by replacing approximately 70% of the country's circuit-switched telephone network with an IP-based network by 2013.
However, critics of the plan are already voicing their objections, with the first objection revolving around money. The government plan throws a large sum of money at this problem, but most of the money is not government money. Of the total money proposed for investment, 32.8 trillion won (US$23.5 billion) would be private funds and only 1.3 trillion won (US$932 million) is expected to come from the government. Critics wonder how the KCC can plan to commit so much of other people's money without a concrete return.
That turns out to be the heart of most of the criticism. The expected results are a little dubious. One KCC official said: “The logic is simple - a wider road will bring more cars.” The KCC also predicts that the UBcN will generate 17.7 trillion won in added value, around 48.5 trillion won in induced product generation, and approximately 120,000 new jobs. But when pressed to hear what new technologies will create this value, the KCC can only say ultra-definition TV (UDTV), mobile IPTV, and convergence services like a combination of the shopping channel and online shopping. They don't even mention video phones. Despite the idea that UDTV is 16 times better than HDTV, it is still a higher-definition TV than we already have now. And while mobile IPTV does not yet exist, there are currently handheld devices that play television broadcasts, including some mobile phones. Also, it is already possible to buy things online. Basically, the added investment is only expected to bring extremely fast versions of all of the same activities that we do now.
“I think 32 trillion won is too large a commitment for a project that the government can't even suggest a detailed business model for,” an unnamed ISP official is reported to have said. “There's a lot of ambiguous talk about the interactive television, public services, e-commerce and data services it could provide, but those applications are already possible with current networks.”