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Popular phones set to invade the Korean market

Change in software regulation will allow in the iPhone and BlackBerry  PLAY AUDIO

Dec 11,2008
Starting next April, the iPhone, BlackBerry and other foreign-made cell phones will be able to make their Korean debut without Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability, the Korea Communications Commission announced yesterday.

The nation’s three mobile phone operators will also be able to decide if they want to keep the cell phone software platform, known as WIPI.

WIPI was developed to boost the local mobile Internet industry in 2001 and was adopted in 2005 as the standard platform by local handset makers.

Under Korean law, any handset marketed in Korea must come installed with WIPI. But WIPI was a stumbling block for foreign-produced phones.

“The world’s handset market is rapidly changing from closed platforms to open mobile operating systems. In order to keep pace with the trend and provide more rights to cell phone users, we decided to abolish mandatory installation of WIPI,” the KCC said in a statement.

Through abolishing compulsory use of WIPI, the KCC is supporting a new version of the platform - WIKI 3.0 - to support small WIPI content providers. Local mobile phone operators welcomed the KCC’s decision.

“It [the abolition of WIPI] was a timely decision considering the world’s changing handset market environment where more and more handsets adopt open platforms,” said Paik Chang-don, a manager of SK Telecom, the leading mobile phone operator.

“You will see the BlackBerry in the near future [from SKT],” Paik added.

KTF, the No. 2 mobile phone operator, will also soon introduce the much-anticipated iPhone. Industry experts also say mobile phone users would pay less when purchasing handsets if WIPI is not installed.

“People won’t need to pay for WIPI software, so the price of handsets should go down,” said Greg Roh, an analyst at Korea Investment and Securities. WIPI-relevant industries, however, expressed concerns.

“We’ve been asking the KCC to phase out WIPI. We don’t expect to see a sudden huge loss because nearly 90 percent of mobile phones use WIPI,” said Lim Sung-soon, head of the Korea Wireless Internet Solution Association. “The thing is that we have to be prepared for the future when smartphones become mainstream handsets. Currently, less than 10 percent of all Korean handsets are smartphones,” he said.

Smartphones are expected to win a 50 percent market share globally by 2014, according to Strategy Analytics, a U.S.-based research firm.

Smartphones usually adopt open platforms.



By Sung So-young Staff Reporter [so@joongang.co.kr]



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