MIC outlines government's strategy to promote WiBro
During the APEC 2005 IT Exhibition in Busan, government and business leaders, as well as journalists, from 21 APEC member nations will be presented with a wide variety of wireless multimedia innovations showcasing Korea's telecommunication technologies at their best.
Among the many high-tech items to be displayed and used at the exhibition is WiBro, the wireless portable Internet service that Korea has successfully demonstrated and will be launching as the world's first commercial service in June 2006.
The 2.3GHz portable Internet service is said to be capable of providing seamless Internet to users inside a car moving at a speed of 100km/h.
Against this background, the Korea IT Times interviewed Kim Dong-soo, director general of the IT Promotion Bureau at the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) to hear more about the current developments surrounding the wireless service. The following are excerpts from the interview.
WiBro is scheduled to begin its first commercial service in 2006. What is your assessment of business prospects for the telecom service? As part of a project to push forward the 'IT839' strategy, the government has mapped out a plan to boost WiBro services.
Since WiBro is the world's first commercial service using our technologies, it is very important for the future development of the telecom industry and services. I anticipate that WiBro will provide new opportunities for the growth of today's sluggish telecom market by activating wireless Internet services.
In March this year, the government issued business licenses under fair and strict guidelines so that WiBro services can be adopted and activated. Since then, preparatory works such as network installment by WiBro operators, KT and SKT, and the development of operating systems and terminals by equipment manufacturers have proceeded as scheduled for its commercial service that the government expects will commence in June next year at the latest.
How do KT and SK Telecom compare each other in terms of service timetable and investment scale regarding WiBro services?
As I understand, there are some differences in the detailed service and investment plans of WiBro operators depending on their business strategies. KT and SK Telecom plan to begin the WiBro service in Seoul and other highly populated cities in April and June next year, respectively, and expand their services to 84 cities by either 2008 or 2009. The two telecom operators plan to invest about one trillion won each for the next five to six years for the building of their WiBro service networks.
What are the economic benefits that can be gained by adopting the portable Internet service?
According to a study conducted by ETRI on the spin-off effects of WiBro services on the nation's economy, the WiBro's effect on production inducement can reach as high as 6.1 trillion won with the valueadded inducement effect reaching 3.3 trillion won after six years from the launching of WiBro services.
Moreover, the equipment manufacturing market is anticipated to be revived, along with the rise in new demand for the systems, terminals, and other related components thanks to the commercial service of the portable Internet. The mobile contents market, too, is forecast to grow at the same time along with the quality improvement of current wireless services as well as the advent of new services that will combine the wireless with the fixed telecom service.
How do you foresee the social changes WiBro services would bring?
The portable Internet service WiBro has the potential to fulfill the 'Ubiquitous Society' goal in advance based on the characteristics of next-generation mobile telecommunications, namely, the IP-based mobile broadband communications.
It is anticipated that WiBro services will transform business and lifestyles of people as the service will be transformed into a portable tool that can be connected to the Internet with a speed of over 1Mbps for use at any time, or at any place, and even while on the move.
Through the WiBro service, the quality of life can be improved as people on the move can, for example, make business transactions and take part in interactive educational programs through the Internet.
On the corporate side, it will be possible for companies to strengthen their competitive edge and improve productivity through such means as mobile offices and can build up the momentum to create various types of business opportunities.
How does the government plan to promote and assist WiBro operations?
Since WiBro is a wireless telecom service that is supported by new technologies, the risk of developing technologies is high as any obstacle in the process may incur difficulties such as delays in commercial service. At any rate, however, I think it is the role of the government to formulate the basis for activating WiBro service by reducing the burden on telecom operators and manufacturers from such a risk.
In this vein, the government has organized consultative meetings with related firms and experts for the successful launching of the WiBro service in June next year. In addition, the government plans to provide assistance for the WiBro's global appearance through such means as road shows that can show the superior qualities of WiBro technologies.
Could you explain how telecom operators plan to demonstrate WiBro services at the APEC IT Exhibition?
As a WiBro service provider, KT plans to provide opportunities to government and business leaders as well as people from the news media participating at the APEC summit to experience WiBro services with various contents by using terminals such as notebooks and PDAs.
As I understand, KT will be delivering fully-mobile wireless data experience with a wide variety of multimedia contents such as 3D Cyber Tours.
What is the current status of developing WiBro's commercial operating systems and terminals? To my knowledge, the development of operating systems and terminals by relevant firms is proceeding according to schedule.
Samsung Electronics, which successfully demonstrated a WiBro Hand-over technology in August this year, plans to complete the development of WiBro operating systems and terminals by the end of this year, while similar projects by LG Electronics and POSDATA, too, are being carried out according to the timetable.
How would you appraise KT's recent demonstration of WiBro service in Seoul? On October 18, KT held an opening ceremony for its completion of a WiBro Test-bed at its head office in Seoul and successfully demonstrated the WiBro service. Under the concept of providing "Wireless TPS-based Personal Broadband Service Together with a New Digital Paradigm', KT demonstrated the WiBro service while moving in a car through different parts of downtown Seoul.
Through this demonstration, KT showed that it would be able to provide a reliable service during the APEC summit.