[EDITORIALS]Mobile future in jeopardy

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[EDITORIALS]Mobile future in jeopardy

The government is once again flip-flopping on a policy. The IMT-2000, the project to build the third generation, or 3G, mobile telecommunication network has been thrown into confusion by contradictory statements by the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Yang Seung-taik, the information and communication minister, recently told the National Assembly that the ministry would consider allowing mobile operators to make changes in their planned 3G technologies. Although he said the ministry would do so "if the service providers fail to develop the technologies or make the market," the remark suggests that the structure of the 3G project may change.

After heated controversy, the ministry awarded in 2000 a 3G license to SK Telecom and KTF. Their proposed network is based on W-CDMA, a mode standard in most countries, except the United States. LG Telecom was approved to construct a network based on cdma2000 technology, popular in the United States. The ministry said then the carriers would roll out 3G services by the end of 2003. The three companies paid nearly 4 trillion won ($3 billion) for the licenses.

Lending credence to rumors about a change in plans, the ministry has redefined the cdma2000 technology. Citing rules by the International Telecommunications Union, which sets the global standard for mobile telecommunication technologies, the ministry acknowledged that SK Telecom's latest cdma2000 service falls into the 3G category. Based on the ministry's announcement, SK Telecom or KTF can also provide cdma2000 service. The ministry said SK's service uses a frequency band different from a W-CDMA network. Considering that the ITU regulations were in place before the government awarded the 3G licenses, the ministry cannot avoid criticism that it devised the 3G policy without even knowing the international standard.

The IMT-2000 project will determine the fate of Korea's information-technology industry, which logged $10 billion of exports last year despite the global economic slump. The government should clear the air of confusion and push the project with constancy. A policy that has lost the public's trust can never be successful.

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