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KT and SK offer mobile wireless broadband plans

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July 02,2006

As major mobile service providers launched commercial services of WiBro, a portable Internet service, on Friday, staff of KT, one of the companies, showed how consumers can use the Internet on the subway. [YONHAP]

Thanks to several new services that started on the same day last week, Internet users have more choice than ever when choosing their service provider ― not just for the home, but now for mobile wireless broadband connection too. On Friday, KT, the country’s largest fixed-line operator, and SK Telecom, the largest mobile phone service provider, both began commercial services of WiBro, a homegrown portable Internet service. WiBro, short for wireless broadband, enables users to access the Internet at the speed of fixed-line connections through portable devices such as laptops or personal digital assistants. The mobile reception is reportedly seamless even when moving at speeds up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour. For now, however, WiBro will only be available for laptops. Those who wish to try the service can buy a card at KT or SK Telecom offices, which can be inserted into most laptop computers. The card is 300,000 won ($316) but one must also pay a monthly subscription fee, which is a flat rate of 30,000 won in the case of SK Telecom; KT has various payment plans but is offering a fixed monthly rate of 16,000 won until the end of this year. Unfortunately for those living in rural areas, WiBro is available for the time being only in certain areas of Seoul and Gyeonggi province. KT’s service is available in most of the Gangnam region in southern Seoul, Shinchon in northern Seoul, and Bundang in Gyeonggi province; SK Telecom’s service caters to major university districts such as Seoul National, Korea, and Hanyang Universities and Shinchon, as well as Daechi-dong in southern Seoul and the shopping precinct Myeongdong. Both companies, however, say the reach of their services will soon expand significantly. By the end of the year, KT plans to cover most of Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province; SK Telecom hopes to expand coverage to 12 districts. “Including 500 billion won this year, we’re going to invest 1 trillion won by 2011 in WiBro,” said Cho Chul-jae, a KT spokesman. Nor is WiBro the only technology offering high-speed mobile Internet connection. An entirely different technology, High Speed Downlink Packet Access, or HSDPA, is also available on mobile phones. And on Friday, mobile service provider KTF joined SK Telecom in offering these 3.5-generation cellular phone services, which enable video phone calls and data transmission services at the same time. Although this is something that WiBro can do as well, HSDPA services place more focus on wireless phone technology and provide perks like global roaming. Also, while it will take some time for WiBro services to gain coverage for the rest of Korea, both SK Telecom and KTF say that HSDPA will reach more than 90 percent of the population by the end of this year. When asked why SK Telecom was pursuing two similar services, the company said they were in fact, complementary. “WiBro is a more city-intensive service while HSDPA has a nationwide coverage, so they don’t really overlap,” a spokesman said. Yet some consumers foresaw overlap of a different kind. “Another new technology, another new bill,” groaned Oh Jung, a 29-year-old officer worker. by Wohn Dong-hee


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