South Korea to get WiBro broadband services

Mobile broadband service offers 1Mbit/s at 60 km/h

High-speed internet services based on a new technology called WiBro (Wireless Broadband) are a step closer in South Korea with the government's selection of three carriers to provide WiBro-based commercial services.

WiBro (Wireless Broadband) is part of the IEEE 802.16 family of wireless internet specifications and is expected to offer speeds up to 1Mbit/s for devices traveling at up to 60 kilometres per hour.

The technology is closely related to the WiMax system that has been developed to send a higher-bandwidth signal of several tens of megabits per second to fixed receivers over a distance of several tens of kilometers. WiMax is also part of the IEEE 802.16 family.

The South Korean government said late last week that it will award the licenses next month to KT Corporation, SK Telecom and Hanaro Telecom. All three had been expected to gain licenses after Dacom, the only other major carrier to have expressed an interest in the service, dropped out of the running late last year and said it will concentrate on fixed broadband services.

Commercial launch of WiBro services is expected during the middle of 2006, the government said in a statement.

The new services stand to increase the connectivity of those in South Korea, which is already one of the world's most connected nations. Broadband internet service, both by fixed cable or DSL and by WiFi wireless networks is widely available throughout the country. It was also one of the first places in the world to start commercial 3G (third-generation) cellular telephone service and cellular carriers offer data transmission over CDMA2000 1x EvDO networks at speeds up to 2.4Mbit/s. Telecom New Zealand has launched its own 3G network, T3G, using the same technology.

Bids from each of the three carriers were assessed and awarded points. KT scored the most points, at 85 out of 100 and also bid the most money: 125.8 billion won (NZ$172 million). That gives the carrier the right to select which of the three frequency bands available it will use. SK Telecom was in second place with 82 points and Hanaro in third with 80 points. The latter two carriers each bid 117 billion won (NZ$159 million), the government said.

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