A focus on global standardsLast weekend we heard the good news that the United States selected mobile digital TV technology developed jointly by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics as its technical standard. It is significant that the two companies, which have been competing intensely, were able to penetrate the global market together. With the adoption of the new standard, companies that make cell phones providing TV services in the United States must use a receiver chip produced by Samsung and LG or pay a patent fee.
At the same time, the 20-pin charging method for cellular devices - currently used for Korean touch-screen phones - has been selected as the international standard. Going forward, therefore, consumers won’t experience the inconvenience and costs associated with having to change batteries and chargers every time they purchase a new cell phone.
The implementation of international standards provides a measure of technical competitiveness and help companies survive. However, Korean firms only opened their eyes to this area a decade ago.
Still, the number of applications from Korean companies looking to get their technology adopted as an international standard jumped from seven in 2001 to 212 in 2008.
And we are now seeing specific results from these efforts. Korea, for instance, was the first to commercialize T-DMB technology for digital radio transmissions, which is now an international standard. Recently, 16 types of vessel mooring gears proposed by the Korean shipping industry were recognized as international standards. And certain robot safety and performance measurement technologies developed in Korea also became international standards. The efforts Korean companies have made in this realm, although belated, are now progressing. However, we still have a long way to go. Advanced countries are moving fast to develop cutting-edge international standards and facilities to make that happen. The United States and the European Union require companies applying for research and development funding to also submit a plan for technical standardization. Japan and China are also preparing national comprehensive strategies to focus on projects that have the potential to lead to international standards.
The harsh reality that international standards cannot be reached solely via technical superiority must not be forgotten. In the past, the Japanese company Sony insisted that the Betamax videotape be based on its technology alone. But it ended up falling to its knees as VHS became the global standard for VCRs.
The Korean government and companies also need to cooperate to commence technical development with international standards in mind.