Tracing 50 Years of Korea’s Electronics Industry Development

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Development and commercialization of Mobile WiMAX
Thursday, July 15th, 2010

With the Smartphone trends, Today is the golden time for Mobile WiMAX

Today all is possible with internet. From a simple searching for information to social networking, even the banking. It is just a 'can-not-live-without' for modern humans. As the internet develops, it broadens its territory to the outside. As a result, people can access the web everywhere with wireless internet.

This kind of life style is allowed by the technical advances and the hard works of many people. Among them, in particular, Yim Chu-hwan, President of Korea Digital Cable Laboratories could be called the man who enables wireless internet technology, the greatest achievements of the era.

Let's trace back to 2001 when Yim was the Secretary-General of TTA. It was the time Korea was buzzed with CDMA's export marketing to China and other nations after the commercialization of CDMA technology for the first in the world.

In the middle of the sensational affair, Yang Seung-taik, the former minister of the Ministry of Information and Communication predicted "The mobile world will move on Wireless Data Communication" and ordered Yim to make a decent standard to prepare for the upcoming new age. And after a while of discussing the research process, the research and development for wireless internet went into full production in 2003.

Yim Chu-hwan was appointed as the President of ETRI in November 2003, and the wireless internet project became more active under the conduct of Chin Dae-je, the former Minister of the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Since there was a possibility of commercialization, the project was sponsored by only private investment companies such as SK Telecom, KT and Hanaro Telecom. Neither was the nationwide one.

Yim Chu-hwan

Yim Chu-hwan, President of Korea Digital Cable Laboratories

While ETRI and Samsung researchers co-developed, the great support and high interest from Lee Ki-tae, the former President of Telecommunication Business Unit in Samsung Electronics of those days were a big boost for the research, so the work flowed nicely.

A year later, LG Electronics showed their interest in involvement for the project, sadly it was too late for them.

Finally in December 2004, the development of mobile internet technology, Mobile WiMAX has finished. Although it was laboratory-diagnosis technology, ETRI and Samsung made a hit to possess the mobile internet technique officially as the first in the world and the universe. Along with the fast standardization from IEEE, WiMAX, the innovative mobile internet technology, has revealed its appearance along with the standard nomenclature, 'IEEE 802.16e.'

There is an interesting episode retold by Yim. ETRI and Samsung electronics got together to celebrate the successful completion of technology development. Yim said to Lee Ki-tae light-heartedly, "Since we developed some technology, don't we deserve to get something?"

Lee smiled thoughtfully, and then decided to give KRW 1.5 billion of rewards to ETRI. Lee didn't take more than 5 minutes to have the final word. This story is a perfect example to glimpse the reputation of Lee, as a man with initiative and drive.

Soon, WiMAX got a nickname, 'WiBro,' in Korea taking the name from 'Wireless' and 'Broadband.' In 2005, KT and SK Telecom were granted ability to be the operators of the technology. Hanaro Telecom who participated in the beginning of the project unfortunately had to give up the booking during the process. The reason why is known that the foreign investors were against investment at the time. Currently, the assigned frequency for Hanaro was returned and remained open.

However, the commercialization for WiMAX had been sluggish for the next 2 years, it was only  a limited-service in certain areas including Seoul and Boondang in 2006. Nevertheless SK Telecom and KT, got the license for WiMAX; the two mobile business carriers slacked up the hereafter investment.

yang and chin
Nowadays the wireless date usage begins to blow with the recent Smartphone trends, the situation turned in WiMAX's favor. Today is literally the golden time for Mobile WiMAX since its birth.

KT and SK Telecom certainly changed their attitude and treated WiMAX nicer than before. KT developed a portable Wi-Fi router, 'Egg,' and builds WiMAX networks all around the nation. SK Telecom who seemed slow in investment during the past, also has been involved in a variety of related businesses to keep up with the trend.

WiMAX's popularity is not a phenomenon only in Korea. Rather, it is way popular in other nations. According to data recently examined, 568 networks of WiMAX were built in 148 countries around the world which is a 14.3 percent of growth from a year ago, 522 networks in 147 nations. It just proves the high value of WiMAX.

This domestic technology is contributing to the internet usage of cosmopolitan people around the world especially, in Africa where there is incomplete internet network construction and in the Asia-pacific region, high demand on data.

If so, how we can predict the future of WiMAX? Yim answered with the question by saying, "It is unmanageable to spread the wired internet in the wide areas like Africa. However, wireless internet technology, WiMAX, covers 2-4km of area per a base station, so it is much more effective in many ways."

Yim expected that the foreign demand will be increasing steadily citing the cases which are KT currently process the WiMAX business directly in Uzbekistan since the acquisition of a business in 2008 and SK Telecom have recently engaged in a business in Malaysia.

He added by saying, "WiMAX has broader coverage than WiFi. Therefore, it has the high value in use at home and abroad. Even though, LTE (Long Term Evolution), the next network for the future, is emerging, WiMAX will firmly stand its position and be widely used as an international standard."

Developing the mobile internet technology, WiMAX and retaining the source technology with standardization is great enough to get praises, but it also left some to be desired. Such as to let the technology to rest for over four years after its commercialization of the technology in 2006.

And Yim named the reasons for the error of bidders' selection. He explained that since KT and SK Telecom already have been operating the wireless business, it can not be helped, their negative attitude on additional investment. And he was sorely missed by the stopover of Hanaro Telecom.

Yim said "Because of that, Hanaro Telecom did not have a wireless business communications.  They would actively promote network building compared to other carriers. If they pursued the project without giving up, today Korea might shine in full glory in to the world as the powerhouse of the Smartphone."

In the past when Hanaro telecom and KT were competitive towards ADSL, wired internet access lines, the fierce fight between two companies enabled Korea to be the Internet powerhouse.

 

Full Series Schedule

July 2009: an overview
August 2009: The electronics industry is born
September 2009: Electronics industry gains momentum
October 2009: Color TV production opens a new vista
November 2009: Radios, cassettesand electronic watches change lifestyle
December 2009: The personal computer arrives
January 2010: TDX1 introduced into the local network
February 2010: TFT LCD allows determination of film thickness
March 2010: CDMA comes into commercial use
April 2010: U-technologies (part 1)
June 2010: U-technologies (part 2)
July 2010 : WiMAX opens 

August 2010 : IT 839 Strategy Lays the Groundwork for ICT Market
September 2010 : Era of IPTV

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